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Listen: Gaucci steps down as Floriana FC president

Hits out at authorities over club project delay

Riccardo Gaucci has stepped down as president of Floriana FC.

The Italian entrepreneur, who has been at the helm at the club for the last six years, said that he decided to step away from the club primarily due to the continued stalling in the process for Floriana’s Commercialisation of Sport Facilities project as well the team’s elimination in the UEFA Europa League.

Speaking exclusively to the Times of Malta, Gaucci said that it was not an easy decision for him.

“This was a very tough step to take but it’s motivated by three reasons,” Gaucci said.

“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.

“Secondly, the team’s elimination from the Europa League, which for me, is one of the biggest regrets and finally having been away from my family for six years now and my daughters are growing up fast, I think it’s time to spend more time with them.”

Riccardo Gaucci vents his frustration on the authorities as the club’s project process continues to stall. Audio: Matthew Mirabelli

Gaucci said that Floriana’s project would have helped the club to attract investors and provide a surplus of funds that would enable the Greens to be more competitive in UEFA club competitions.

“Had the authorities given their green light so that we could start our project it would have put us in a strong position to attract investors and provide a more sustainable future to our club.

“The club would be able to strengthen the team and stand a better chance to advance in UEFA competitions,” Gaucci, the son of the former Perugia FC president Luciano Gaucci, said.

“The situation has been in stall for too many years now. The club has two Letters of Intent on the project from two different Parliamentary Secretaries for Sport while the Office of the Prime Minister has sent us no less than 15 draft contracts regarding the development plan of the project and we were just about to sign these contracts.

“But then, all of a sudden, they invented the idea of creating a commission in charge of the Commercialisation of Sports Facilities and we lost another two years.

“During this time, we have deposited all the necessary paperwork and were given the green light by the commission, provided we receive all the permits from the Planning Authority, and since then another year and a half passed.

“What I cannot understand is that why did they appoint this commission which then didn’t take any decisions.

“For me, it is a bit of a mockery towards Maltese sport because if I deposit all the necessary paperwork and the commission doesn’t have all power to take the final decisions we remain hanging for several years with nothing happening.

“I cannot go on like that so it’s time for me to move away.”

Riccardo Gaucci speaks about the disappointment of going out to Flora Tallinn in the Europa League. Audio: Matthew Mirabelli

Gaucci said that the importance of helping clubs embark on Commercialisation of Sports Facilities projects is not just for Floriana FC but is crucial for the development of Maltese football in general.

“I’m doing this argument not just for my club but it’s for the benefit of all Maltese clubs,” Gaucci emphasised.

“If you don’t have a project that can help Maltese clubs to grow, football here will always remain of a minor level in the European sphere. Investors will never come here to put in their money and when you go to compete in UEFA club competitions your only ambition is to reach the second or third qualifying round as we did this year and can never go beyond that.”

The Floriana president said that his team’s elimination from this season’s UEFA Europa League to Estonian side Flora Tallinn had been hard to accept for him.

The Greens were eliminated by the Estonian side in a penalty shoot-out after the third qualifying round match had ended in a goalless draw at the National Stadium.

“All the sacrifices that I did in the last six years at the club were aimed towards seeing the team to be competitive in Europe and to prove that the Maltese league was not inferior to the other countries,” Gaucci said.

“My main aim was to achieve something big in Europe with a small club in the European sphere.

“Therefore, my main regret was to let my team face Gżira United in the BOV Premier League, less than 48 hours from our return from our win against Linfield in Northern Ireland.

“We arrived in Malta on Friday morning at 7am, the players didn’t rest at night and we had several of them who were carrying an injury.

“Personally, I didn’t want my senior team to face Gżira and wanted to field our youth team for the match so that I could rest the players for our match against Flora Tallinn the following week.

“However, some members of the club committee didn’t agree with my position and I let them convince me to change my position and play my senior team against Gżira and that was my biggest error.

“Unfortunately, we had injuries and ended up playing four games in just a few space of time after we hadn’t played for several months.

“The team played well and forced a penalty shoot-out but we still ended up losing. I’m sure that if we had rested the team we would have beaten Flora and set an historic result for the club as we would have been the first Maltese team to reach the Play-Off round of a UEFA competition.”

Gaucci said that Floriana’s achievements in Europe this season further highlight the importance of helping clubs generate income through their projects as it would give them a better chance to advance further in UEFA club competitions.

“With the modest budget we had this year we reached the third qualifying round of the Europa League and almost won that tie, imagine if we could invest more in the squad what we could have attained,” Gaucci said.

“This summer we played agaisnst CFR Cluj who have an operational budget of €20million, Flora Tallinn €10m while Linfield, who we beat in Northern Ireland, have four times as much of our budget.

“That is why it hurts when you see the authorities who do nothing to help us get a more sustainable future. A lot of promises were made but nothing was done in practice and it’s pity.”

Potenza praise

Gaucci ended the interview by heaping praise on the other members of the Floriana FC committee while he had special words for coach Vincenzo Potenza.

“I am sorry for the fans who have given a lot to our club and with whom I shared difficult times but also memorable occasions, such as winning the title last season. Surely those memories will stay with me forever,” Gaucci said.

“I’m grateful towards all members of the committee who work hard for the club.

“Also I am happy to have worked with a great coach such as Vincenzo Potenza.

“For me he is one of the best coaches I ever had and I am sure it will not be long before we see him go and take charge of a bigger club in the near future as he deserves it.”

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