Playing for a European soccer club in the top division is considered to be the pinnacle of one’s career. The competition is top-notch and the salaries that players command is equivalent to competitors at the top of their game.
Transfer fees that are paid to other teams in order to procure the services of these superstars are often quite steep. In order to offset these expenses, ticket prices often rise, as does the revenue teams receive from television rights and advertising.
Looking at these factors, fans are once again shocked to see a legendary club file for bankruptcy protection. Italian powerhouse Parma is the latest in a string of top-flight teams that had to seek court protection due to mounting debts.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these teams and how they coped with the heavy financial burdens that accompany a bankruptcy filing.
Currently $106 million in debt, an Italian court declared the club bankrupt. This Serie A mainstay has been there before, having entered administration (the European equivalent of bankruptcy) in 2003 before emerging as solvent in 2007.
As recently as last season, the club finished in sixth place in Serie A. This would have given the club a berth in the Europa League competition, but delinquent tax bills at home ruined that opportunity.
In December 2014 the team was docked a point for failing to pay players’ wages on time, and in February of this year local tax authorities in Italy seized three of their vehicles to recover debt shortfalls. A game against Udinese had to be cancelled because Parma was unable to pay stewards, and their youth coach has said that the team did not even provide enough funds to purchase water bottles (!).
More importantly, the Parma players have not been paid all season. While team owner Giampietro Manenti has been promising all season long that the team debts would be paid, he was arrested on charges of embezzlement and money laundering. What is strange is that he only bought the team back in February for the sum of one Euro, making it the second time team ownership has changed in the past three months.
While it is possible that a wealthy group of investors will pump enough money into the team and stabilize it in Serie B next season, the more likely scenario is that Parma will be dissolved and forced to start again at the bottom of the Italian soccer pyramid.
Founded in 1898, this was a team that competed in the English Premier League as recently as 2010. Fast forward to 2015: Portsmouth finds itself mid-table in Division Two, a full three divisions below where they were just five years ago. It’s the first time they’ll be playing in England’s fourth division since the late ’70s.
With Portsmouth being thrust into receivership in 2009 and again in 2011, they continued to lose valuable points in matches as their descent continued. When it seemed that the team would be dissolved without a viable source of financing, an unusual stream of funding arose. A local group called the Pompey Supporters Trust purchased the club and continues to own it today, making it the largest fan-owned team in England while the faithful fans continue to support their squad at Fratton Park in Division Two.
While Portsmouth might never return to the top-flight days of the past decade, for the team and its fans, this partnership between players and fans can surely be considered a success and give them hope for the future.
This Scottish powerhouse has won more league titles than any other team in the world, winning the league 54 times and the Scottish League Cup 27 times.
Having been founded in March 1872, their fans have been treated to quality soccer at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow for decades. The one competitor that Rangers couldn’t defeat was their finances, which forced the team into receivership in 2012 and resulted in the team’s liquidation a few months later. The remaining assets of the club were purchased by a group of investors (Rangers Football Club PLC) and Rangers were back playing football in Scotland, although at the bottom tier of the Scottish Football League.
Fighting their way back up, they are currently in third place in the Scottish First Division. If all goes well, the Ibrox faithful might just find themselves cheering on the “Gers” in the Scottish Premiership once again next season—a storybook ending for a soccer team with a storied history.
Once a mainstay in the English Premier League, Leeds United was forced into administration in 2007 as their debts mounted due to loans being taken out before earning a berth in the Champions League, which the team failed to qualify for.
The rules of entering administration resulted in them being docked 10 points, and they found themselves relegated to the third rung of English football. Since that time, they have risen up to the Championship Division and are currently mid-table.
Financially, the club has struggled throughout the past decade, with several lawsuits filed as recently as February 2015. But the Elland Road faithful have continued to support their team throughout the turbulence, and they may be rewarded in the future for their efforts.
After the principal partner of their current ownership team, Massimo Cellino, found himself banned from running the team due to tax evasion charges, energy drink giant Red Bull has put in an offer to take over ownership of the club. If the sale of Leeds goes through as expected, it will provide the club with sufficient capital to field a team worthy of its rich heritage.
So keep your heads up, Parma supporters. History has shown that if you continue your support and give it time, you will be watching your team play at Stadio Ennio Tardini for many years to come.