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Italian group wrests Parma control from Chinese owners

Rome (AFP) – A group of Italian businessmen has wrested control from Chinese investors Desports to acquire a majority share in Serie A club Parma, it was announced Tuesday.

Unsatisfied after Desports’ failure to deliver on promises made last year when they took over the crisis-hit side, ‘Nuovo Inizio’ (New Beginning) — a consortium of businessmen and investors from the Parma region — have taken their share in the club from 30 to 60 percent.

Desports are now minority owners on 30 % with the remaining 10 % owned by Parma Partecipazioni Calcistiche, a group representing supporters and supporters groups.

Jiang Lizhang, the president of sports marketing group Desports, is no longer the president of Parma. The club is soon expected to elect a new president.

Marco Ferrari, one of the leaders of Nuovo Inizio, was quoted as saying in Italian press reports: “A year ago we were sure we had identified the right people when we gave control… to Jiang Lizhang, who was backed by a global company anchored in the world of sport and which, initially, gave a strong indication of its commitment.”

Ferrari said the turning point was a “change in the political tide in Beijing in relation to Chinese investment in foreign football clubs”.

He added: “But after these initial promises, we have unfortunately been faced with a different scenario.

“We’ve noticed increasing difficulties on the part of the Chinese shareholders to deliver on a number of the obligations which a sector so strictly controlled as Italian football imposes on clubs, and therefore the majority shareholders.”

Last May, Serie A giants AC Milan were taken over by American hedge fund Elliott after the club’s Chinese owner, businessman Li Yonghong, was unable to pay his debts to them.

Parma’s fans, meanwhile, will be hoping the move pays dividends having seen the club bounce from one crisis to the next in recent years.

Their glory days were in the 1990s, when they won two UEFA Cup trophies, a Cup winners’ Cup and the European Super Cup.

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