One of Italy’s largest shipping companies, Grimaldi Group, has confirmed it contributed some of the funds used to save the Sicilian football team of Catania from bankruptcy but admitted it had no interest in acquiring shareholding in the Sicilian club, unlike Maltese company Famalco, also mentioned in the deal, whose director said, “whatever I do with my company’s money is my business”.
Grimaldi, the Naples-based group that also has a presence in Malta, denied it was ‘the Maltese company’ cited by the Italian media as being interested in acquiring a shareholding in the Sicilian club. During an interview with Sicilian online portal meridionews.it, Grimaldi Group executive manager Eugenio Grimaldi said the company had given Calcio Catania a sum of money as sponsorship, but was not seeking any shareholding in the club.
The Shift reported last week that Catania’s football club was gifted a donation of €500,000 by unidentified Maltese businessmen just in time to save the club from bankruptcy. This website also revealed that unnamed Maltese business interests were invested in buying a stake in the struggling club.
Grimaldi denied that the group was connected to ‘the Maltese business’ which reportedly paid some €500,000 to Catania to avoid bankruptcy. “I know a thing or two about Malta and Maltese companies as I’ve been doing business with the island for many years. However, our group has no interest in acquiring the football club. It is not our line of business,” Grimaldi said.
Famalco takes a different turn
Famalco Group, on the other hand, declined to comment on persistent rumors in both local and Sicilian football circles that the Attard-based company was behind the donation and is seeking ownership of Calcio Catania.
When contacted, Director of Famalco Group Herman Mallia said he did not want to give any details about his company’s business interests. “I neither deny nor confirm,” he told The Shift when asked whether his company was interested in Calcio Catania and whether it’s made any donations to the club.
“I do not speak to journalists as you tend to write whatever suits you,” Mallia said. “Whatever I do with my company’s money is my business and you can write whatever you want.”
Famalco, which owns Fahrenheit Logistics, is one of Malta’s leading transport companies. Its distinctive green lorries travel between the two islands ferrying merchandise from Sicily, including all the imports of the Lidl Group, on an almost daily basis.
The mysterious half a million
The donation, or sponsorship, of the crucial €500,000 from Malta came just as Calcio Catania was facing a €2.3 million bill from the Lega Pro in order to register for the Serie C, Italy’s third division football league. Without the Maltese contribution, the debt-laden club would have failed to meet the deadline and may have been forced to close down.
While the Sicilian club’s administrators publicly acknowledged getting funds from Malta, they did not identify the donors. The club said, however, that it’s engaged in ongoing negotiations with these same donors around their possible purchase of a stake in the embattled club’s shareholding.
Sources familiar with the situation told The Shift that, over the past weeks, various Maltese businessmen were approached by Riccardo Gaucci – an Italian businessman and former owner of Floriana football club – to try to find investors for Calcio Catania.
It is not yet known whether Gaucci was successful. However, the sources said that while a ‘large Maltese logistics company’ has shown interest in acquiring the Catania football club, they were insisting that the club should clear its €65 million in debts.
The sources said that negotiations are continuing but no final decisions have been taken yet.
Malta and the Italian league
The Malta Football Association is known to have been actively seeking to enter the Italian football league since at least 2019.
The organisation is said to have reached an agreement with Italian football league that would see a team made up of Maltese nationals, and set up and managed by an MFA commercial company, being given the opportunity to participate in the Serie C league. The deal, which would involve the payment of millions of euros, was reported to have the involvement of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
Negotiations around this initiative are yet to be concluded, mainly because of the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic and resistance from local football clubs.
It is not known whether these latest developments around the potential acquisition of Calcio Catania are connected in any way to the MFA’s still unrealized project.