Roma offers assurances amid stadium corruption probe

AS Roma has stated it expects its Stadio della Roma project to remain on course following a wave of arrests in the Italian capital over alleged corruption tied to the Serie A football club’s new stadium.

Italian news agency ANSA said the Vice-President of the Lazio Regional Assembly, Forza Italia (FI) member Adriano Palozzi, construction businessman Luca Parnasi and Luca Lanzalone, president of water and energy utility ACEA, were among nine people arrested by police yesterday (Wednesday).

A former regional councillor for the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) who is considered close to Lazio Governor Nicola Zingaretti, Michele Civita, was also arrested, with a total of 16 people under investigation.

The probe specifically concerns alleged corrupt acts committed during a revision of the original stadium vision, which was approved in February 2017. Investigators have said that neither Mayor Virginia Raggi or Roma are under suspicion. “Those who have done wrong will pay, we are on the side of law and order,” Raggi said.

In a statement, Roma’s American president, Jim Pallotta, maintained the Stadio della Roma will move forward without issue, stressing that none of the nine individuals arrested are club employees. “We’re saddened and dismayed by the allegations and arrests,” Pallotta said. “As the prosecutor categorically stated earlier, AS Roma has nothing to do with this.

“Also, contrary to what was reported in some places, the arrests do not involve the stadium contractor for Stadio della Roma and are actually nothing to do with the construction of the stadium or the entertainment complex. Now we fully expect to move forward with the project and we are not expecting any substantial delays.”

In December, Roma secured approval from four local governing bodies to proceed with its long-running plans to build a new stadium. Roma Capitale, the Metropolitan City, the Region of Lazio and the Italian government all initially cleared the 55,000-seat Stadio della Roma in November. The club then used a series of meetings to discuss the various regulations for the initiative and formalise this approval. 

Roma began work on the Stadio della Roma project in February 2012 when it launched a search for a suitable site for its new home. In December of the same year, the club selected a location in the Tor di Valle area of Rome for the stadium.

Pallotta made the stadium plans public in a live television broadcast in March 2014, signaling the start of the approval process. However, progress was slowed due to a series of concerns over the design of the stadium, with the City of Rome requesting that the club present an alternate proposal.

In February 2017, the project was finally given the green light to move forward after it was declared to be in the public interest. Speaking at the time, Mauro Baldissoni, general manager of AS Roma, confirmed that the plans had been altered to satisfy any lasting concerns.

Roma plans to move from the Stadio Olimpico into its new home ahead of the 2020-21 season. According to ANSA, Pallotta maintained his pledge to sell the club if the stadium project is axed or delayed significantly.

“Roma have done everything right,” he said yesterday. “The stadium must go ahead. I don't see why it shouldn't. If the project is halted, see you in Boston.”