Sports commercialisation process must be made clearer – entrepreneur Diane Izzo

Floriana club sponsor Diane Izzo says government has never given clubs clear guidelines on the process to commercialise their football grounds

Sponsorship plans: Diane Izzo (right) struck up a partnership with Floriana F.C. through D Arena Mall, a company that bought into an Italian business concern that Floriana F.C. president Riccardo Gaucci (left) first step as part of a sports commercialisation project for the Independence Arena
Sponsorship plans: Diane Izzo (right) struck up a partnership with Floriana F.C. through D Arena Mall, a company that bought into an Italian business concern that Floriana F.C. president Riccardo Gaucci (left) first step as part of a sports commercialisation project for the Independence Arena

The government has to make clearer the process for sports commercialisation projects, entrepreneur Diane Izzo has said in the wake of the resignation of Floriana F.C. president Riccardo Gaucci.

The Italian businessman resigned his post last week, despite having clinched the premiership title in 2020, citing the club’s failure to progress into their European campaign, but also the excessive bureaucracy surrounding the commercialisation of sports facilities.

“The main reason is the fact that the club’s proposed project has stalled for several months now, despite the fact that the club has done everything it could so that it would be given the green light by the authorities,” Gaucci said in a club broadcast on Facebook.

He said the commercialisation of the club’s facilities at the Independence arena, also known as ix-Xagħra tal-Floriana, would have helped to raise standards in the sport while providing funds for better reinvestment in the club.

Izzo, the owner of fashion retail powerhouse DIZZ group, is the sole owner of D Arena Mall Ltd, which acquired the company MIG Trade which Gaucci had set up together with Italian businessmen Ciro Iacone and Riccardo Migliosi for the Floriana commercialisation project.

“He might have been a bit brash... but he is factually right,” Izzo said of Gaucci’s reasons for stepping down. “Government issued a law, but never gave clear guidelines on how the process will work. They told us about their plans two years ago, but things never panned out,” she said.

Izzo, whose company has also latched on to the Sliema Wanderers F.C. commercialisation plan in Tigné to develop a mall there, said many more clubs were facing the same problem.

“The process involves a lot of agreements with different sectors, and so when these agreements don’t work out, it is all for nothing... we feel betrayed, we were promised something different,” she said.

Izzo is not involved in the Floriana club’s administration, but she has been one of the club’s sponsors for just over two years. “I’m just a sponsor. Of course, we help a lot, but in terms of applying for the permits and the land, that is all in the hands of Floriana. We are not involved in that process,” she said.

“Of course as business-people we have an endgame,” she said of her investment in Floriana, a one-time eternal rival to Sliema Wanderers. “Ultimately it is the sport which benefits because they have secure income and can reach new levels.”

Parliamentary secretary for sports Clifton Grima claimed he was against any excessive bureaucracy, but said the regulations were safeguarding the sport. “A number of clubs had forwarded proposals which have been too bombastic for implementation,” he said, specifying that he was not referring to the Floriana proposal.

“Several clubs have come to us with excessive proposals, and these will just not fly. There must be a balance... commercialisation should always serve the sport,” Grima said.

Comparing Malta’s situation with other countries, Clifton Grima cited an example from Italy where only a handful of clubs, like Juventus and Atalanta, had been recently given full control over training premises, land and stadiums.

Grima said the commercialisation projects will start coming into action in the coming days. “Clubs need to do what is right, and that is prioritising the sport. Only then can the level start to climb.”

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