For years, one of the biggest issues with FC Bari was its ownership. The club either suffered through financial issues or refused to spend the requisite money to all but ensure promotion to Serie A. On top of that, there was always a concern that the next calcio scandal could involve the club.
At the end of the previous season, however, fans spotted a Malaysian flag hanging in the rafters of San Nicola. Soon after, the media reported a Dr. Noordin Ahmad was working to buy a majority share in the club. Soon after the purchase went through and Bari became the most recent in a growing number of Italian clubs majority owned by a non-Italian
Problem solved right? Brand new day for the club and its fans? Kind of, but also kind of not.
When a foreign investor purchases a majority stake in a Manchester City, the goal is incredibly apparent – invest to win and drive up your income in tandem with the club’s success. The goal should be and can be the same with smaller clubs, but the parallels are not always there. Many times, the smaller clubs are seen as a growth opportunity to make money on a growing product while using the club to sell the product the ownership group really cared about.
Take, for example, the Cardiff City situation. Vincent Tan purchased a majority share of the club and immediately alienated almost every Bluebird fan within months. He tried to change the club’s colors – unheard of in British soccer – to red because it was a lucky color in Malaysia (his home country) and could sell more kits. He antagonized players and management with his comments. The result of his attempt to make the club into another asset in his portfolio means the clubs and its fans are worse off than they were previous.
So what should we Bari fans expect from Dr. Ahmad? The beginning of the relationship was poor – few people actually knew who he was! However, FourFourTwo magazine investigated the buyer and discovered his connections to Italy ran deep. His business collaborated with the Italian defense agencies and, according to his own words, has a deep affinity with Italy as he suffered and recovered from his second heart attack in the country. The article also mentioned that he could work with the Malaysian government and local oil companies to invest in the club.
Long story short, owners who care and could invest in the club are a positive thing, regardless of where they park their yacht. And yet, the legacy of Vincent Tan hovers in these situations, and we have to hope the devil we don’t know is better than the devils we do know.
Next week – a season preview.