They came, they promised and left: Catco Group’s €25 million promise for Sliema

Tunisian company Catco Group had guaranteed Sliema Wanderers FC a €25 million investment over five years before signing a sponsorship deal last year 

Catco Group Capital Investment promised Sliema Wanderers FC a €25 million investment over five years Photo Credit: Sliema Wanderers FC Facebook page
Catco Group Capital Investment promised Sliema Wanderers FC a €25 million investment over five years Photo Credit: Sliema Wanderers FC Facebook page

Catco Group Capital Investment had promised Sliema Wanderers a €25 million investment over five years before signing a sponsorship deal last year, MaltaToday has learnt.

The Tunisian company was roped in by Jeffrey Farrugia, known as ‘il-Vinċ’, soon after he became president of the football club last August.

Multiple sources within the club have confirmed the sponsorship figure floated by Farrugia and Catco Group chairman Fisal Abdullah Alokla was in the region of €25 million. The sponsorship would have possibly been one of the highest ever for a Maltese football club.

Sources said the figure had been mentioned again during an online meeting between the players, Farrugia and Alokla, a fortnight ago.

The club was also promised an investment in a “sports city”, with sources suggesting that Alokla may have been eyeing the former Flower Power site in Ta’ Qali.

But none of the promised monies made it to the club and player wages remained unpaid. The situation was made worse after Farrugia went on a signing spree in the summer to boost the club’s fortunes on the pitch.

Club insiders said the Tunisian company brought hope but some were suspicious from the outset. One club source said: “They came with a lot of ideas in mind. Some of us had noticed that there was something fishy. Why would they come here in Malta?”

Other sources said the majority of players have been left in the dark about the situation. “Players knew nothing about the situation. They were always promised they would be paid in a week’s time, but wages never arrived,” they said.

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Attempts to contact Farrugia and Alokla were futile.

But although Catco may be guilty of bringing false hope, the company is not fully responsible for the club’s dire financial situation. “This has been a long time coming. For 10 years we have seen the situation worsen,” a Sliema club member said.

Farrugia resigned from president last Wednesday following the resignation of honorary vice president Keith Perry a week before. But the club also faced other resignations as its financial woes deepened. Perry had already stepped down from club president in the summer of 2020 to make way for Farrugia, who arrived at the club with the promise of a lucrative sponsorship deal.

Lawyer Kris Busietta is now expected to take over as club president following an extraordinary general meeting in the coming days. Sliema already faces a FIFA and MFA transfer ban due to outstanding balances for cases they lost against three players, all of which were represented by the Malta Football Players Association.

Malta Football Association vice-president Matthew Paris said the association was looking to install a ‘Member Status Committee’ prior to Farrugia’s decision to step down. The committee, which can also be referred to as a “normalisation committee”, has the role of restoring order within clubs facing a crisis.

But plans have stalled due to the president’s resignation, with Paris saying that the MFA respects the club’s autonomy. “The best situation would be of having clubs resolve their own situation,” he said.

The Malta Football Players Association had accused Sliema Wanderers of being “gravely” in breach of contractual obligations towards its players and coaching staff, saying full-time players were “literally struggling to feed themselves and their families.”

MFPA General Secretary Carlo Mamo had also confirmed that a number of players had come forward with complaints about lack of payments. He said the MFPA reached out to the club for an explanation. 

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