Roma president James Pallotta spoke to the club’s official website and clarified about what the future holds for the club and the updates regarding The Friedkin Group. Here’s what he had to say:
How badly has the Covid-19 crisis impacted Roma financially?
First of all, it’s had a significant financial impact on all of football – and on Roma, certainly. I would even say that Covid impacted our January transfer window, as some deals didn’t happen because of it.
All over the world, many industries have been impacted in different ways. Our players and management were incredibly supportive – as an example, taking salary reductions – but there’s no denying that we have suffered the loss of ticketing revenue, stores being closed, football camps being cancelled and now arguments over TV money.
So, yes, we have been badly affected, but we are talking about the financial impact of Covid-19 on football. Thousands of people all over the world have suffered a far greater loss – the loss of their loved ones. That’s the real tragedy of Covid-19, not the loss of money in football. Football will come back, those lives won’t.
Some people seem to think football is a matter of life or death, and while it may feel that way sometimes, it’s really not. Losing a mother, a father or a grandparent is devastating, no matter what age you are, and my thoughts go out to anyone who has suffered.”
There’s been a lot of speculation about the future of the club recently but you’ve remained silent. Why?
Sometimes what people forget is that we are a public entity, so it’s simply not possible or practical to speak most of the time about the ownership situation. I know that may frustrate some people, but it’s the law.
For nine years, I have seen information either leaked from inside the club, made up by those outside the club or driven by people far from Rome, but while I might want to respond occasionally, we are a publicly traded company so I can’t react to every comment or story about what may or may not be happening.
What I can say, however, is that we have an investor group and so if someone approaches us about investing or buying the club, we have a fiduciary responsibility to listen and respond.
I see myself as having two main responsibilities – doing what is best for AS Roma and also doing what’s best for the investor group and the shareholders. We have invested well over €400m into this project – a substantial amount, and we have always tried to do the right thing for Roma.
I haven’t taken one penny out of the club, ever. We’ve put money in. Even in the last few weeks. As part of our investment, we have spent over €70m on the stadium project, which, in my mind, we should have been celebrating the opening of by now. We should have been playing in that stadium next season.
Maybe we are getting closer again – and how many times have I said that, or heard that? – but maybe, with recent developments, we are close to the final ‘final’ approval. I certainly know that, right now, Italy and Rome need this new stadium and need this investment in the country.
You have been harshly criticised for rejecting a reported offer from the Friedkin Group…
The Friedkin Group approached us last fall and, towards the end of the year, we were beginning to find an agreement. We went into more detail – and the devil is always in the detail – but after changes made by their lawyers and bankers, the offer began to morph into something less and less palatable for both Roma and our investment group.
The last semi-concrete offer we received – some of the details of which seem to have been leaked by either their lawyers or bankers – just wasn’t close to being acceptable. And this is the offer that some appear to be very upset about.
I am not sure if those who are upset understand how a deal like this works – but it’s not with seller-financing. At the end of the day, if I am buying a house, I don’t expect the seller of the house to reduce the asking price to cover the cost of all of the refurbishments I want to make. That’s not how it works.
If The Friedkin Group has the money and wants to talk again and wants to make an offer that we all find acceptable for Roma, we would listen.
Could they be a good owner for Roma? Maybe. We just don’t know. I do know that when I came in, I had a lot to learn – and it would be no different for them. So it’s impossible to know whether or not The Friedkin Group could be the saviour of Roma, as some think, or the best owner for Roma, but we continue to have people calling us and wanting to talk to us and as a fiduciary, we have to listen to them.
Are you ready to leave Roma?
Well, as I get older, I do think about my future and I would like to leave the club in really good, strong hands. I would like someone to be a good steward of Roma and with the ability to compete in the manner that we would all like.
Until that time, we continue to support Roma in countless ways and continue to put money into the club to ensure we can compete in the biggest competitions and at the highest levels.
I, along with a few others, have certainly put in more than was expected of us personally, because we have always tried to do well by Roma.
How much of a profit is acceptable for you to make out of selling Roma? Is there a number?
Believe me, we are not sitting around saying, ‘We want to make this much money!’ Not a chance. Right now, I just want to try to ensure that whatever happens next for Roma is the best thing for the club – whether that’s with a sale, a new investor or with myself and the current investor group.
I learned a long time ago that to some people, it’s not going to matter what I say or do, or how much money I put into Roma. They will always say it’s never enough and that’s life. I’ve accepted that.
Many fans are nervous about the summer transfer window, considering the club’s financial position…
There’s uncertainty everywhere in football right now, it’s definitely not something that is unique to Roma. There are a lot of moving parts in football and a lot may depend on potential investment into the club.
No club in the world knows how the transfer window is going to pan out this summer or fall but ultimately, we need to do what we believe is best for AS Roma.
Do you have a final message for fans?
I just want to say thank you to fans who continue to support us and no matter what happens, I will continue to try to do everything I can for AS Roma. I love Rome, I love the club and I love the people and I hope to see us back winning again soon.