Wednesday 23 July, 2008
After months of appealing for Serie A aid, historic club Spezia have gone bankrupt and Paul Watson blames Inter’s apathy for their demise.
While Serie A seems to be prospering once more with the arrivals of Jose Mourinho and Ronaldinho, worrying wails can be heard drifting up from calcio’s basement. The news that Messina had been forced to forfeit their place in Serie B due to crippling debts was quickly followed by the collapse of a handful of lower League sides, a list that sadly included Spezia.
Hailing from the tiny Ligurian railway town of La Spezia, the Eagles were amongst Italy’s oldest clubs and had been around since 1906 – even winning a the war-time version of the Scudetto in 1944. The minnows’ return to the second tier in 2005-06 prompted heartwarming scenes of celebration for a club used to living in the shadow of neighbours Genoa.
Spezia stayed up thanks to a relegation play-off in 2005-06, but the highlight of the season was undoubtedly upsetting the mighty Juventus 3-2. However, the financial demands of playing in the Second Division took their toll and debts escalated, endangering the future of the club. When they slipped to relegation last season, the situation became critical as bailiffs knocked on the door.
A supporters club raised an impressive sum to clear a large portion of the debt, but the main hope of salvation lay with Italian champions Inter. Spezia always enjoyed a close relationship with Inter – a club they saw as an older brother – and had been bailed out by the Nerazzurri in the past. But although President Massimo Moratti did make a contribution, it only represented a seventh of the amount raised by the fans. Spezia’s time was up.
While I commend Moratti for the aid he did provide over the years and accept that Spezia couldn’t become a charity case, I feel that calcio’s giants failed to accept the responsibility they have to the lesser lights of the game. While the Beneamata are happy to spend £65m on changing Coach, the idea of giving under a 10th of that to save a club from extinction is treated as unthinkable.
The buck shouldn’t stop at Inter, the whole of the top tier need to act. Serie B and C are the bedrock of calcio. Not only are these small clubs beloved by thousands of Italy’s most dedicated football fans, they are crucial for the development of new talent and are the places where so many of the nation’s stars learn the ropes before graduating to Serie A.
I just hope that before Moratti and Co invest their next £10m on a foreign star they take some time to think about where the next generation of Italian talent will be able to serve their apprenticeships.