By the sound of it, Mike Piazza had a plan for a pretty idyllic post-retirement life. Buy a small soccer team, eat in Italy and watch the kids grow up nestled in his family’s homeland.
Two years later, he is now explaining to The Athletic how it all went so, so wrong.
Mike Piazza buys Italian soccer team, everything goes wrong
Piazza entered the world of sports team ownership in June 2016 when he bought AC Reggiana, a team in Italy’s third-division Serie C circuit. He was met by a raucous crowd in the town square of Reggio Emilia, a small city in northern Italy.
Hope quickly turned into expensive mediocrity for Piazza and his wife, Alicia, who reportedly never wanted to buy the soccer team in the first place. The way she put it, she was dismayed to learn that her husband didn’t buy the Italian soccer equivalent of the New York Yankees, New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers. Rather, he had bought … Pittsburgh.
“Who the f— ever heard of Reggio Emilia?” she asked. “It’s not Venice. It’s not Rome. My girlfriend said, and you can quote this—and this really depressed me. She said, ‘Honey, you bought into Pittsburgh.’ Like, it wasn’t the New York Yankees. It wasn’t the Mets. It wasn’t the Dodgers. You bought Pittsburgh!”
In their Miami living room, Mike tried to interject but she stopped him.
“And imagine what that feels like, after spending 10 million euros. You bought Pittsburgh!”
The Athletic’s piece goes into much more detail and is definitely worth a read, but the short version of what happened to Piazza’s team from there goes like this: a desire for action, lack of business knowledge and misunderstanding of Italian labor laws caused operational costs for the team to boom from 500,000 euros the year before Piazza bought the team to 6 million euros during his first year.
Piazza then stepped away from the team’s front office and handed control to the wife who never even wanted the soccer team, who slashed costs by, among other things, making professional players wash their own uniforms. She also verbally abused staff and began to go to war with some of the team’s creditors, including the owner of the Reggiana’s stadium.
The team was playing for a promotion to the second-division Serie B, which was presented as a team-saving boon, but an appallingly bad call in a playoff tournament eliminated the team and left a very sour taste in Piazza’s mouth. So sour that he flew back to the United States and tried to sell the team, declare bankruptcy and allow the team to be carved up.
Now, Piazza sits out millions of Euros and the city of Reggio Emilia is rooting for a Serie D team, basically a semi-pro organization, that was started by local businessmen. Piazza is no longer very popular in the “Pittsburgh” of Italy, and probably regular Pittsburgh too, now that The Athletic’s piece is out.
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