International week can be pretty slow on a club level, so there’s nothing like some Sensis getting indignant out of nowhere. Today, Rosella Sensi wrote into Leggo to ‘set the record straight’ on the terms under which she handed over the club to Roma’s American era.
Since Football Italia already did all the work translating, we’ll just insert her letter from there.
“After years of what can best be described as ‘imprecise’ evaluations on the financial status of AS Roma under my family being used as a handy alibi for poor sporting and economic results that did not live up to expectations, the moment has come to put an end to this,” Sensi told Leggo newspaper.
“I am tired of hearing how my family and my father, for the love of Roma, spent money and amassed debt that had nothing to do with the club, but only our private companies.
“When Pallotta bought Roma, there was a minor consolidated debt. This is fact, not idle chatter. Perhaps the current President is misinformed or received bad advice.
“I am ready to meet face to face with Pallotta whenever he wants so we can clarify this situation and explain it to him directly. The club finances are different now, but I won’t be here commenting on that, as I don’t find that an elegant thing to do.
“As a fan and someone who still deeply loves Roma, I hope the club can soon get the success it deserves and hasn’t enjoyed for a long time.
“I also hope to no longer hear incorrect versions of history used as alibis for the current owners. Forza Roma.”
My first reaction to this was that criticism of muddying details is rich coming from the Sensis, of all people. However, it’s also too easy to nail people to the wall using their own words from years ago. Time goes by and life goes on.
Giving Rosella Sensi the benefit of the doubt, after years removed from AS Roma, maybe she simply just grew up and saw the very “imprecisions” she relied on as Roma President weren’t doing anyone any good. Nonetheless, the Sensi family were more than happy to prey on the ambiguity around their family’s private financial difficulties in public, all the while courting sympathy from Roma fans for two issues that should have never been mixed in the first place.
In Rosella Sensi’s original 2009 warcry to the Corriere dello Sport, when asked if Roma was up for sale during the Italpetroli money worries, Sensi danced blurred the lines between fact and sentiment.
“Roma isn’t hostage to the fortunes of the Sensi family, if it ever has been in the first place, and let’s not forget what my father has done for the club, we haven’t done that bad, we’re all close to Roma, we want the best for this club and Roma isn’t tied to the debts of Italpetroli. Until Roma went public on the Borsa, and I have to say that helped Roma get off the black list, Dad put money into the club, he didn’t take any out. My family has given so much of their money and health to this club and Dad made himself sick for Roma.”
So was the future of the club tied to the family’s fortune or not?
The story was convoluted when it never needed to be. And the Sensi family’s original IPO lawyer Filippo Lubrano, again in 2009, got straight to the details the Sensi family was leaving out.
According to Lubrano, taking the club public got Franco Sensi all 170 million euros of his money back, and he was sitting on a further 300 million worth of newly-created wealth from his two thirds private share in the club. Did the decision to take the club public benefit anyone but Franco Sensi himself? No. Did it benefit Franco Sensi? Yes.
Did the family use Roma’s declining share price as an excuse to hold off Unicredit from assuming control of their main business Italpetroli? According to Lubrano, they tried.
And Lubrano summed it up with: “They’re passing off this idea that the Sensi family has ruined itself for Roma.”
Now Lubrano was replaced within the club after the 2000 IPO was complete, so I take his words 9 years later with a pinch of salt. But there are enough facts there, when compared with the former owner’s words, for me to believe the Sensis were happy to lean on the very same alibis Rosella Sensi is now rebuking James Pallotta for today.
So why set the record straight now? Does it matter?
If there’s one area where Rosella Sensi is 100% on the money, it’s that her family and father did give their health away in the pursuit of their interests. It’s easy for me to criticise from the sideline, but I’ve never had to deal with crowds at the Olimpico drawing up banners insulting my father when he’s in hospital. Nor have I personally lived through the public vitriol sent James Pallotta’s way today.
Moving under the public microscope of Rome is not easy, and it’s made all the more harder for you when your decisions are incompetent. Under Pallotta’s era - 6 different coaches in 7 years of ownership - Roma look like descending firmly back to being a mid-table club, with mid-table results led by a thoroughly mid-table president.
At this point, we’re gambling on Pallotta finally finding a team of football people he can trust enough to keep Pallotta’s own interference away from the club; at least until the stadium is built.
Criticism of Pallotta’s decisions are almost always met with the tangential defence of “yeah but it’s understandable, because he’s got money.” But Roma’s problems have very little to do with wealth, and everything to do character. No amount of the former can buy you the latter.
You could have an owner in charge with five times the wealth of Pallotta’s group, and you’d just be managing to blow more money on a sinking ship all the same. In fact, the club managed to do exactly that for most of the 1990s, on a truly global scale.
In the last two eras of ownership, it’s looked like nothing more than wealthy individuals clamouring for public excuses to keep away the scrutiny of fans. Everyone has a lifejacket in this soap opera when their time is up while, if you care about the actual football itself, the footballing decisions have no direction.
Almost as if to make that stark clear for Roma this week, Massimo Mirabelli - a man widely assumed to be all about the money from his time jumping ship between Inter and Milan - joined the list of names who politely turned down the chance to become Roma’s next sporting director. Roma had already been rebuffed by Parma’s DS Daniele Faggiono a week prior, before Mirabelli spoke this week.
“I’d walk to Rome but... right now I don’t see transparency there. There’s too much overlapping of roles in that club’s setup. The fans deserve better: everything clear, and responsibility made clear. I’m not just looking for another contract, but a real project.”