Disaster for Bari and Serie A

ESPN and Fox Sports are reporting that the deal for the Matarrese family to sell AS Bari to American real estate magnate Tim Barton has been cancelled.  Barton had until yesterday to make an initial payment for the club, which he failed to make.  The Matarrese family says it will still sell the club.

Although no details have emerged about the reason for the failure, one apparent concern was the asking price for the club.  It was reported last week that Barton had asked for a reduced price for the purchase – initially the club was to be sold for around $35 million.  He had also asked for a delay of the initial payment, presumably to continue price negotiations, which was not received well by the family.

With the lack of details right now, it is impossible place blame on the exact cause of this deal collapsing.  Hopefully it is not because Barton attended too many Bari matches.  However, I would argue that this failure to sell the club is not only a huge setback to Bari, but to Serie A as well.

First, AS Bari.  The club has been successful so far this year, sitting in 12th after its promotion from Serie B last year.  The club had brought in some top-flight talent and has been more than competitive, getting two points from two contests so far at the San Siro.  The possibility of new American wealth making the club relevant in Serie A is now seemingly gone, and the club continues to remain in flux.

The bigger concern is the impact this will have on Serie A, which is seeking to make itself financially competitive with the English Premier League and La Liga.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Serie A in order to compete with these leagues needs to open itself up to foreign investment.  An American owner of a club like Bari would have global access and capital to promote the club and league beyond Italy.  A Barton-type investor can fund worldwide advertising and promotion of his (or her) club and, more pointedly, tap into a fertile American market that is gaining interest in worldwide soccer.  The deal collapsing sets back Serie A and raises a host of questions about how ready it is to compete with major European leagues.

Of course, we’ll see if we can get the whole story.

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