A group of anonymous Maltese investors, who last week reportedly forked out €500,000 to save the Sicilian football club Calcio Catania from bankruptcy, are currently discussing the possibility of buying into the same club despite the embattled Serie C team’s reported €65 million debt.
While the Calcio Catania administration has failed to disclose the identity of the Maltese investors, sources close to the Malta Football Association (MFA) told The Shift that the negotiations with the Catania administrators are being ‘facilitated’ by Riccardo Gaucci – who up to last year was the owner of Floriana FC.
“We still don’t know who forked out the money for Catania,” MFA sources told The Shift. “But we are informed that Riccardo Gaucci was in Malta in the past weeks, approaching different individuals to try to raise funds for the Sicilian team. The same ‘investors’ now seem to be in discussions with Catania to broker a new deal on buying shares in the club. We don’t really know what interests are behind this possible deal.”
Maltese money saves Catania Calcio
Calcio Catania – a team that played in the Italian Serie A until a few years ago when it was hit with scandals involving match fixing and corruption – was on the brink of being declared insolvent as a result of the high levels of debt accumulated over the past years.
The team was given until 28 June to present its application for admission to the Lega Pro – the administrators of the third division football league – along with a payment of €2.3 million.
The club managed to raise funds from among supporters and the Sicilian business community but was still short of reaching the requested fee. At the eleventh hour, a group of unnamed Maltese businessmen suddenly sent Catania a cheque for €500,000, just in time to present the application to the Lega Pro to be admitted for next season’s league.
A final decision on Calcio Catania’s application and due diligence on the source of funds deposited with the Lega is now expected to be made by 8 July.
In an official press conference announcing that Calcio Catania had raised the required funds in time to file its application, the club’s administrator Nico Le Mura confirmed Maltese interest in the club but stopped short of mentioning any names.
He said that in the coming weeks, the club intends to sell some of its shares to new investors. These, according to sources, could be the same Maltese businessmen who forked out the €500,000 the club needed. According to Le Mura, discussions are ongoing.
Who is Riccardo Gaucci?
The son of Italian businessmen and former owner of the Perugia football club, Luciano Gaucci, Riccardo led a group of Italian businessmen who bought Floriana FC in 2014.
During his six-year stint as Floriana’s owner, Gaucci won several important titles, including the Premier League, and had signed a multi-million euro deal with Diane Izzo’s Dizz Group as the team’s sponsor.
Together, Gaucci and Izzo were planning to turn part of the Independence Arena in Floriana into a commercial project as part of a government scheme to help clubs invest in their premises and raise new funds.
The project has not yet materialised and Gaucci resigned from Floriana last year citing excess bureaucracy around the project as one of the main reasons for his departure.
Gaucci has close connections with Calcio Catania; like his father, he led the Sicilian club for years.
Riccardo’s father fled Italy in 2005 when a warrant for his arrest was issued over the collapse of the Perugia football club. He was later given a three-year suspended jail sentence and died last year in Santo Domingo.
Founded in 1929, Calcio Catania played in Italy’s top league – Serie A – for several seasons, with its last appearance in 2013-2014.
A year later, their owner at the time, Antonio Pulvirenti, admitted to match fixing.
The club is currently owned by a group of Sicilian investors – Sport Investment Group Italia S.p.A.
Featured photo credit: Calcio Catania