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Serie A circus adds another attraction as Cairo sues Commisso

The Torino owner’s lawsuit against his Viola counterpart may explain the latter’s latest salvo against the press.

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso has had a fractious relationship with the media over his 3 years at the helm. In the interest of disclosing bias, he’s verbally attacked (entirely without merit) our very own Mike McCormack without ever apologizing, but that’s just one in a series of blowups at reporters and reporting-adjacent outlets (that’s us). Now, though, that pugnaciousness has landed him in a lawsuit, as Cairo Urbano—owner of Torino and the company that runs newspapers like Corriere della Sera and magazines like Il Mondo—has sued the Mediacom mogul.

It’s the latest blow in a long-running feud between the two. Commisso has, in the past, accused Cairo of conducting a war in the press against him, which Cairo has vehemently denied. The pair have sniped back and forth for some time before this frontal assault, in which Cairo accuses Commisso of slander and seeks an unknown amount of damages. Expect this saga to drag on in the courts for quite some time as both sides stall for time and launch appeals.

US Sassuolo vs Torino FC - Serie A
Urbano Cairo.
Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

This is an embarrassing situation for everyone involved, but it may help explain an ugly outburst from Commisso during his season-ending press conference last week. The Mediacom mogul proposed differentiating between “good journalists” and “bad journalists,” denying the latter entry to Viola Park in the future.

While this statement was probably born out of frustration with his perceived persecution at the hands of Cairo-employed journalists, it sounded like an attempt to further control the news coming out of Fiorentina. At worst, the words implied that Commisso planned to deny access to writers he felt were too critical of himself and the club, which obviously flies in the face of any principals of free press that Italy, and most nations on earth, consider necessary for a well-informed public.

This isn’t just overreaction on my part, either. This morning, Franco Morabito—who’s previously crossed swords with Commisso’s Fiorentina—the president of the Gruppo Toscano Giornalisti Sportivi USSI (a non-profit organization comprised of Tuscan sportswriters dedicated to mutual assistance) responded in an open letter addressed to Commisso and various Serie A administrators.

“The division,” wrote Morabito, “between ‘good journalists’ and ‘bad journalists’ is unacceptable, an evaluation not permitted by anybody, even the president of a club, but the problem is different: Fiorentina seems to have decided to do its preseason training at Viola Park. To prevent journalists from entering to do their jobs would mean harming the right to report, violating Article 21 of the constitution.”

While Morabito concluded on a conciliatory note with the comment, “Naturally, there is the hope that the words from the press conference have only escaped Commisso in a moment of sporting disappointment,” it’s clear that the reporters remain on alert for any further attempts to limit their access, which they may see as part of Commisso’s ongoing desire to banish even the mildest of critics to the outer darkness, leaving only sycophants to tell fans about what’s happening with the team.

Like Morabito, I’ll end with hope: I assume that Commisso, in the aftermath of a deeply disappointing Conference League final which probably should have been called off, let his feelings run away a bit. I’m fine with that. I want Fiorentina’s owner to be emotionally invested in the club, and it’s clear that he is. That’s more than can be said for many of Serie A’s head honchos.

However, Commisso needs to redirect the ire he holds against journalists, the vast majority of whom are just doing their jobs, and take aim at the many and varied systemic problems plaguing Serie A. If he keeps flailing like this, he’ll eventually drive away even those who want Fiorentina to succeed. And if he does, he could end up exactly where he seems to think he is: alone and surrounded by hostile opponents.