On Monday evening, a huge bombshell dropped from Turin.
Juventus announced that club President Andrea Agnelli, Vice President Pavel Nedved and the entire board of directors were stepping down.
Not only did this news shock the entire world of football, but it had an impact on the business world too, with Juventus a publicly traded company on the stock market, a major multinational company.
Although results over the past couple of years have been below what’s expected for a club as successful as Juventus, the relative lack of success is not enough to have triggered such a seismic event. Instead, it became apparent that something much bigger had been going on behind the scenes.
“The Board of Directors’ members, given the centrality and the relevance of the pending legal and technical/accounting matters, considered in the best interest of the Company that Juventus provided itself with a new Board of Directors to address these matters,” read the club’s official statement.
The legal and accounting matters referred to in the statement are linked to an investigation that’s been carried out by the Turin Prosecutor’s Office over allegations that Juventus had falsely reported player salary payments during the Covid pandemic.
According to the accounts submitted by the club, players had agreed to forego salary payments while football had been placed on hold at the height of the pandemic in early 2020. Yet the allegations state that players were actually paid privately by the club in an ‘off the books’ agreement.
What does this mean?
Paying unofficial salary payments would have severe ramifications for all football clubs, with league rules and tax evasion the primary concerns with this kind of activity.
Yet these kind of allegations are even more serious for a club the size of Juventus, with their status as a publicly traded company meaning that any manipulation of the club’s value would be viewed as serious fraud, due to the knock-on effects for the stock market itself.
But doesn’t the Agnelli family own the club?
Yes and no. FIAT Vice President Edoardo Agnelli was elected Juventus president back in 1923, and the club has been in Agnelli hands ever since. After the Second World War the charismatic Gianni Agnelli – son of Edoardo – was made President, and his impact on the club as a successful businessman was immeasurable, even though others took over his official role after 1954.
Here’s where the family tree gets a little more complicated. Andrea Agnelli is the son of Gianni Agnelli’s brother Umberto, while it’s the grandson of Gianni – John Elkann – that runs Exor, the holding company that owns all the family’s companies, FIAT, Ferrari, and Juventus among others.
Therefore the role occupied by John Elkann – the son of Gianni Agnelli’s daughter Margherita – is far senior to that of his cousin Andrea Agnelli.
“The resignation of the Juventus Board of Directors represents an act of responsibility, putting the interests of the Company first,” read a statement issued by John Elkann, before confirming that he had put a new President in place.
“The new Board that will be created in January will be made up of highly professional technical and legal figures, led by President Gianluca Ferrero and together with the other directors, they will have the task of addressing and resolving the legal and corporate issues that are on the table today. I am confident that the company will be able to prove that it has always acted correctly.”
Strong words indeed.
What happens now?
In the short term, not much.
It’s already been confirmed that current boss Max Allegri will continue to take charge of matters on the pitch, despite disappointing results this season.
“Massimiliano Allegri remains the point of reference of the Juventus sporting area,” Elkann continued. “We are counting on him and on the whole team to continue to win as they have shown to be able to do in recent games, keeping our objectives high on the field.”
Off the pitch, Gianluca Ferrero – a Turin-born businessman who has served on a number of high-profile company boards – will replace Andrea Agnelli to guide the club through this turbulent period.
As Elkann’s statement indicates, the club have moved to distance themselves from the actions of the previous members of the board, in an attempt to protect the club itself from any ramifications.
It’s impossible to know when details of any potential charges against Agnelli and the other board members will emerge, or indeed if the club itself will be handed any punishments despite Elkann’s attempts to isolate it from trouble.
New accounts, that replace those that were posted under Agnelli’s stewardship, will be posted at the end of December, and the new board will be officially in operation in January.
For Juventus fans, it’s now a waiting game.
Can the ship be steadied? Or are there more stormy waters ahead?
Chloe Beresford is an experienced Serie A expert, with previous bylines at Forbes, The Guardian, AS Roma and many more. She has appeared on the radio at Sirius XFM and on the BBC Euro Leagues podcast. Watching live games in Italy and experiencing all the country has to offer are her biggest passions.