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Parma president quits after club denied Europa League place

31 May 2014, 15:01

Rome - Parma president Tommaso Ghirardi has put the club up for sale and is quitting the sport after his team were denied a place in the Europa League following a tax dispute, he said on Friday.

Parma qualified for Europe for the first time since 2006 after pipping Torino to sixth place in Serie A on the final day of the season.

Yet the Italian Olympic Committee stripped them of their place on Friday and handed it Torino due to an unpaid tax bill of 300,000 euros ($408,500).

The decision enraged Ghirardi, who called a news conference on Friday to rail against the sporting authorities. He also said he was quitting sport.

"You have managed to kick me out of sport. You've managed to make me abandon my biggest passion," said a livid Ghirardi.

"You should all be ashamed. I'm finished with football, finished with sport. I'm going back to my little village, and you should all be ashamed of yourselves for what you've done.

"The club is up for sale. I started here with nothing and have built something important.

"Now it's for someone else to show the same passion I have these last few years, to bring respect to the city and the fans."

Ghirardi took over in 2007 with the club in a financial mess following the bankruptcy scandal that engulfed former owners and dairy giant Parmalat.

This season Parma were one of the most exciting teams to watch in Serie A. Guided by coach Roberto Donadoni, they managed to get erratic and temperamental talent Antonio Cassano playing his best football in years.

They snatched a spot in the Europa League when they beat relegated Livorno 2-0 while Torino drew 2-2 at Fiorentina, with Alessio Cerci missing a stoppage-time penalty that allowed Parma to finish a point above them.

After being denied their spot by the Italian authorities, the club could yet appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), although Ghirardi gave no indication whether they would.

"To take away what we achieved on the pitch... who is it that judges me? People who have never paid a euro to play sport, they're people who have always lived off the back of it. These are the people who judge me," added Ghirardi.

"I've come from the Terza Categoria (10th tier of Italian football) where there were two fans, me and the other president, and I arrived in the Europa League. We earned it on the pitch and I'm proud of it.

"This is a civil city and we've been punished because we're too correct, too civil. This isn't our world. This is the world of who shouts the loudest, of who throws smoke bombs and of who shoots."

The 39-year-old said the club had always been completely transparent in its financial affairs and that the tax issues raised by the authorities came at the last minute, leaving them six hours to arrange the documentation.

"Only an idiot would think that I was being crafty trying to save 300,000 euros after spending 13 million, and then losing another 6-7 million for our non-participation in the Europa League," he said.

"When I've calmed down I will ask myself who will be able to pay back these sums for economic damages, damages to our image and personal damages.

"The sanction given to us was given to us for an error, or what they call an error, that led to a non-payment of 0.7 percent of the total sum to be paid.

"For what they call an error I've lost money I could have earned on the pitch."

- Reuters


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