NOTNews that the entire Juventus board had resigned on Monday came, in the Italian phrasing, like lightning from a calm sky. Even the official statement published on the club’s website just before 10 p.m. local time buried the departures of club president Andrea Agnelli and his management team in 10 paragraphs in a summary of their meeting that night.
No major media had anticipated the decision. It’s a complicated season for Juventus from a sporting perspective, starting with two wins in their first seven league games and continuing with a Champions League group stage exit highlighted by a loss to Maccabi Haifa. Still, a sense of optimism had returned ahead of the World Cup break, a six-game winning streak and clean sheets lifting them to third place in Serie A.
The improved results have diverted public attention from a different cloud on the horizon. Last year, a major investigation was opened into Juventus’ accounting practices and financial reporting. In October 2021, Covisoc – the Italian football industry watchdog – raised concerns about what it perceived to be unrealistic player valuations being used to achieve “capital gains” (capital gains) on the balance sheets of various clubs.
A list of 62 transfers was sent to the national football federation (FIGC), 42 of which concerned Juventus. Many were swap deals, like the one that took Miralem Pjanic to Barcelona in a swap deal for Arthur Melo, at allegedly artificially inflated list prices.
In April, Juventus and 10 other clubs were cleared by the FIGC Disciplinary Committee, which cited the difficulty of assigning objective values to footballers. In the meantime, however, a parallel investigation had been opened by the Turin public prosecutor’s office, relating to the published accounts of Juventus for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021.
The Prisma investigation deployed wiretaps to intercept communications between club decision-makers. Last November, a warrant was obtained for financial police to search Juventus training facilities as well as offices in Turin and Milan, seizing relevant documents. Sixteen people were placed under surveillance, including Agnelli, its vice-president (until Monday), Pavel Nedved, and the club’s former director of football, Fabio Paratici, now chief executive of football at Tottenham.
Prosecutors concluded their investigations last month, filing charges of false accounting, market manipulation and false financial statements. Beyond capital gainsJuventus have reportedly made misleading claims about a players’ agreement to forfeit part of their wages during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In March 2020, the club released a statement claiming a pay cut equivalent to four months’ wages – saving €90 million. Instead, the players would have given up a month’s salary.
The club denies wrongdoing, but Monday’s resignations showed how seriously these accusations are taken. “Given the centrality and relevance of the outstanding legal and technical/accounting issues,” reads one passage, “[it was considered to be in the] in the interest of the company that Juventus has a new board to settle these issues.
Prisma has reported his findings to the FIGC Disciplinary Committee, who will consider whether to re-examine his case against the club or open a new one. The sporting code provides for fines and a possible points penalty if Juventus are found to have breached rules on player contracts. It is unclear what criminal charges may be pursued by prosecutors in Turin.
La Liga, the body that organizes top-level football in Spain, issued a statement his people on Tuesday demanding “immediate sporting sanctions” against Juventus. He had already lodged a formal complaint against the club with UEFA in April, citing the Prisma investigation.
Juventus announced on Monday that new financial statements will be published for last season, guided by “new legal and accounting opinions from…independent experts”. On Tuesday, the club appointed Gianluca Ferrero, a business adviser and auditor, to replace Agnelli as chairman. Current chief executive Maurizio Arrivabene will stay on at short notice to oversee the day-to-day running of the club while the board is replaced.
Agnelli’s departure marks the end of an era. Juventus achieved unprecedented results under his leadership, winning nine consecutive league titles and 10 other domestic trophies, as well as the Champions League final twice.
A modernization push that was launched with the move to the Allianz Stadium in 2011 led to Juventus expanding its reach with documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as the launch of a new logo in 2017. Cristiano Ronaldo signing allowed the club to build its following social networks.
But the Portuguese striker, and the failed launch of the Super League project, also symbolize a complicated legacy. Agnelli could hardly have predicted the global pandemic that was about to arrive when he signed Ronaldo in 2018, but the financial burden of his transfer fee and salary played a part in the mounting deficits. The losses recorded by Juventus in the last three seasons amount to more than 550 million euros.
This figure could increase with the revision of the financial statements of last year. John Elkann, chief executive of Exor, the holding company which owns Juventus on behalf of the Agnelli family, stressed on Tuesday that the first task of the new board will be to restore stability while resolving the legal problems faced by the club, saying he was confident that “the club will demonstrate that they have always done the right thing.”
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