Waking up this morning, Fiorentina staff, players, and fans knew that it would be a big one. Today is the day that the Tribunal Arbitral de Sport (Court of Arbitration for Sport), or TAS, would release its verdict on the ban Europa League ban that UEFA smacked AC Milan with over their recent financial, er, irregularities. By the end of the day, everyone would know whether the Rossoneri were allowed to play in Europe; if not, Fiorentina would slip into the Europa playoff round. And now, the verdict is in: we’re going to adjourn until tomorrow for the actual final verdict.
Apparently the Milan delegation, including director Marco Fassone and Elliott Management portfolio manager Franck Tuil, raised enough points to keep the adjudicators busy enough that they’ve postponed their decision until tomorrow morning at 11 AM local time, which works out to 10 AM GMT.
This is a huge kick in the nards for the Viola for two reasons. The first, of course, is that it certainly looks like there’s some skulduggery afoot. Elliott has claimed that it will inject €50 million into the team, but that doesn’t even balance out the €75 million loss the club incurred over the past twelve months, and is a small slice of the hundreds of millions that the Rossoneri owe. Seeing them wriggle out of their financial straits even in this post-Berlusconi era would be yet another reaffirmation that football is immensely corrupt, and that teams like the Viola are frequently the victims.
The other worry for Fiorentina is that Milan drag this process out for another week or two. If that happens, Fiorentina will be stuck in limbo: Pantaleo Corvino won’t know whether or not he’ll be able to use the prestige of the Europa League to attract new players, or even if he’ll need to reinforce the squad enough to compete on three fronts; Stefano Pioli won’t know if he needs to be prepping his charges for the 26 July 2018 playoff tie against FK Sarajevo or if he should focus on the opening day of Serie A on 19 August 2018, and will have less time to integrate new players into the squad when they arrive.
Maybe TAS will do what everyone outside the red half of Milan thinks should happen and keep the ban in place, allowing Fiorentina into the Europa League despite the embarrassing end to the season. Maybe the Viola will work their way through to the group stages and make a deep run through the tournament, earning the cash and attention that they need to sign better players and kick on for the long term. Maybe this is a new purple dawn.
But when you’re up against irregular finances, UEFA, and AC Milan, it’s mighty hard to be optimistic, especially as the process drags on for longer and longer.