Claudio Lotito & Lazio: Why Has It Come To This?

On June 14, 2024, tens of thousands of Lazio supporters met in front of the Stadio Flaminio in Rome to express their dissent over the management of the club.

Claudio Lotito became Lazio’s President on July 20, 2004. Since then, he has been probably one of the most hated Lazio Presidents of all time, with all this spite coming to a culmination on Friday. Why have we reached this situation? The cauldron has been bubbling for quite some time…

Lazio’s Current Financial Status

Lotito is blamed for a number of things. Historically, his major fault is not forking out money when needed – not improving the organization of the club, not investing, ignoring the communication side of things, milking the club for his own benefit, and the inability to get a main sponsor.

As far as the first point is concerned, it must be said that since Lazio is a joint-stock company, if Lotito pumps money into the club, this increases debt, and this – in one way or form – has to be paid back. One has to remember that Lazio has a large debt with the Italian state for unpaid taxes: €148 million accumulated between 2002 and March 2005. The agreement – using a law of the Italian state dated 2002 – indicated that Lazio would have to pay back €143.24 million in 23 years, €5.65 million to be paid every year on April 1. The deal also indicated that the club had to undergo a fiscal examination every March, meaning that Lazio need to be in a good financial situation every year, hence debts must be kept to a minimum; there are four instalments left.

Since his arrival, the economic state of the club has been good. Historically Lazio have always had financial problems, with perhaps the exception of the Sergio Cragnotti presidency, so to finally have a financially sound club is certainly a plus. The training centre is definitely one of the club’s strong points, having been praised by past managers and even by FIFA President Gianni Infantino. But there are problems.

Reliance on TV + Failure to Develop & Sell Players for a Profit

Lazio’s revenue comes predominantly from TV money. For many years the club has lacked a main sponsor. The last one was Binance but the deal was not renewed, at least as far as putting the logo on the jersey. Lotito values the name on Lazio’s jersey a certain amount and will not budge from it – he believes it is better to have nothing at all than to undersell.

Over the course of the years, Lazio have not been very good at buying young players, developing their skills and selling them for a profit. Former Sporting Director Igli Tare had made some very interesting deals in the past, but in more recent times, he made numerous mistakes that cost the club dearly (and eventually his job).

Angelo Mariano Fabiani, who has since taken Tare’s place, has started off well with the purchases of the likes of Taty Castellanos, Christos Mandas, Nicolò Rovella, and Matteo Guendouzi. But he will have to continue along these lines for the following years if the club is to benefit in the long term. And Lazio will need to sell. Keeping Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto for so long, as two examples, were errors that other clubs in Serie A such as Napoli or Atalanta would not have made.

A Clear Disregard to Adapt to Modern Times

Clearly, communication is not Lotito’s forte – it never has been. A lot more has to be done. However, he created the official Radio and TV channels that have done a good job. He also purchased the backlog of Lazio footage from RAI – the Italian state-owned TV company – investing a substantial sum of money.

But the recent decision to make the club’s website available to paid subscriptions only is completely against what every other club in the world is doing, and one fails to understand what benefit Lazio will obtain from this… Furthermore, the footage that they acquired has to date never seen the light of day.

Lotito has been blamed for using Lazio to make money for himself. He does own a number of companies that take care of security, catering, and cleaning which the club uses. But it is difficult to say whether Lazio is paying too much for these services, even if it is true that the costs to the club have risen over the past years.

As a club, Lazio are organized fairly simply. There are not a lot of people in charge. This makes things easier from an organizational point of view and reduces costs – but a few important positions are missing. Former Lazio goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi, who was nominated club manager in 2016 and became a middleman between club and players, resigned in 2021 and was not replaced. Roberto Rao, in charge of communication, resigned in 2023 and since then has also not been replaced. These two individuals were fundamental in the organization of the club, and finding replacements should have been a priority.

Lazio Ultras’ Relationship With The Club’s Presidents

If one looks at the history of the club, a strong dislike for Lazio Presidents has not just been for Lotito.

Umberto Lenzini, President from 1965 to 1980 had his share of problems with fans, even if today he is remembered fondly. His share of trouble reached a pinnacle when he chose Tommaso Maestrelli as manager in place of Juan Carlos Lorenzo, a decision that we all can only be grateful for.

Gian Chiaron Casoni was respected, but expectations in the early 1980s were fairly low. Gianmarco Calleri was not really liked much and even Sergio Cragnotti, venerated today as the best President ever, went through a lot of trouble when he tried to sell fan favourite Beppe Signori in 1995. 5000 people took to the streets to show their lack of appreciation for the deal which was as a consequence called off. When in 2001 he sold Pavel Nedved to Juventus, there was offensive graffiti on the walls and rubbish was dumped at the entrance of Cragnotti’s family villa. On both occasions, he threatened to quit and sell.

With regards to Lotito, he has never been loved by the Irriducibili. They feel he used them to create a bit of chaos during negotiations with the state for the repayment of the fiscal debt, but then stopped defending or helping them. Furthermore, Lotito took away the ability for the Irriducibili to sell Lazio merchandise. There were 15 Original Fan Shops around Rome, but now there are just a couple left. As a result, they had backed Giorgio Chinaglia’s attempted takeover of the club in 2006, but Lotito was not interested in selling, especially as the buyers were unknown. In the end, it turned out that it was a Camorra money laundering operation. A few historic members of the Irriducibili were arrested and faced jail sentences for extortion and threats.

Lotito’s Reluctance to Sell Lazio

There have been previous manifestations of dissent, but nothing has changed Lotito’s mind – he is not selling. There have been rumours over the course of the years of potential buyers, but nobody has officially stepped up.

KPMG Football Benchmark back in January 2024 gave a value to the club of €450 million, but according to Lazio Economist LeastSquares, it is probably vastly underestimated, since it does not take into account a number of things including the fact that Lotito owns 67% of the club. Hence whoever is or were interested in buying would have to launch a takeover bid for the remaining 33% of the shares at market price and, therefore invest quite a lot more to delist Lazio.

As a consequence, it is highly unlikely that a buyer could be interested unless a) Lotito takes Lazio off the stock exchange or b) Lazio have its own stadium. So the solution could be the Stadio Flaminio.

Stadio Flaminio: The Solution to a Potential Takeover?

The Stadio Flaminio was built for the 1960 Olympic Games, demolishing the two stadiums where Lazio used to play before using the Stadio Olimpico. It is in a current state of abandonment, taken over by rubbish and weeds.

The Rome City Council have been asking Lotito over the years to take it over, and finally, the President – sensing that the possibility of building a new stadium in Rome is practically impossible as Roma have seen – has worked on a feasibility plan which seems to be good.

Councillor for Big Events, Sport and Tourism Alessandro Onorato has recently stated that he has seen the plan and is enthusiastic about it. This could appease Laziali, and probably create financial interest from investors.

Certainly, all this chaos will not be beneficial to the team and the new manager Marco Baroni who will be under pressure to get immediate results. Not the ideal situation to start a season in.

This Article Was Written by Dag Jenkins & Simon Basten from LazioStories.com.

Tags Calleri Claudio Lotito Cragnotti Gianmarco Calleri Irriducibili Lazio Lazio Ultras Lenzini Lotito Sergio Cragnotti Stadio Flaminio Ultras Lazio Umberto Lenzini