Parma: The decline of a great club

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I can vividly remember watching Channel 4’s Football Italia on a Sunday afternoon in the 1990s and seeing Parma regularly compete with the big boys in Italian football. They had some great names in world football wearing their famous yellow and blue shirts and played an exciting, expansive game that made you want to watch their games.

They provided great entertainment especially at home in their vibrant, compact and noisy 30,000 capacity Ennio Tardini stadium.

Former stars

Players such as Hernan Crespo, Faustino Asprilla and Gianfranco Zola played a huge part in the club’s success guiding them to glory at home and abroad in the 1990s.

The club won eight major honours between 1992 and 2002 - two UEFA Cups, one European Super Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, three Italian Cups, and one Supercoppa Italiana – and were also runners-up in Serie A in 1996-97 which was their best ever finish.

Those glory years are now well and truly over and may never return, particularly after they were denied a Europa League spot this season because of their crippling financial situation.

Considering the underlying issues a sixth placed finish was a great achievement last season. This season is a different story though as the club languish at the bottom of the table with just 11 points from 23 games having been forced to sell their better players due to their debt.

The club had to cancel last weekend’s Serie A game against Udinese as they could not afford to pay for stewards. The players and staff have not been paid all year and are forced to have cold showers after training as there is no hot water.


Parma are in a financially untenable position and the situation cannot go on for much longer.

Under previous Club President Tommaso Ghirardi Parma’s debt increased ten-fold in just seven years since 2007 to a staggering £145m. The finances had spiralled out of control and Ghirardi was forced to sell in December.

In the past two months the ownership of the club has changed hands twice in a bid to save it from extinction.

Firstly Albanian businessman Rezart Taci bought the club for a euro from Ghirardi but his tenure did not last and, earlier this month, Milanese businessman Giampietro Manent took over paying the same one euro fee for the pleasure.

Manent is confident that he can stave off the threat of extinction for Parma and has declared that he does have the finances to do just that. However, the finances have yet to find their way to the football club and many are doubting Manent’s credentials and intentions. The postponement of the game at the weekend shows that the club’s plight is far from being resolved.

Is there a way out?

Debts continue to mount, bills continue to go unpaid, players and supporters are becoming frustrated and Public prosecutors have begun bankruptcy proceedings against the club, with a hearing scheduled for 19th March. This cannot go on for much longer without a solution one way or another.

There is a real possibility that Parma could be wound up and this must serve as a real wake-up call to football the world over. Club’s must not be allowed to build up so much debt because at some stage it will come back to bite them as Parma are finding out. Hopefully Parma can find a way out of their predicament but it is looking increasingly bleak for the cash-strapped club.

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Gianfranco Zola
Serie A

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