As the Sensi family edge ever-closer to losing Roma, Football Italiano takes a look at their Giallorossi era.
Italian football has always been synonymous with club Presidents who are lively, energetic characters, who often symbolise the club they represent. Although in recent years they have all been tarred by the brush of those who instigated Calciopoli, there are still those whose memory will outlive them. The memory of the Sensi family who resurrected Roma will particularly live on, even if we are in the final few days of their reign.
Franco Sensi, a Roman-born businessman and fanatic of his local club, took over sole presidency in 1993, realising a life-long ambition that looked impossible when his brief role on the board of directors ended in 1960. Roma was in the worst state in its history, teetering on bankruptcy. Nobody could have foreseen the wonders that Sensi and his daughter could have achieved in the future.
An oil tycoon, Sensi’s holding company Italpetroli had the finances to stabilise Roma. Although on the pitch they remained a modest team, Sensi was en route to his long-term plan of landing the Scudetto for the club that he adored. In 1999, Roma became a joint-stock company, and one of just three Serie A clubs that could be bought or sold on the Italian stock market. Italpetroli became the majority shareholder of the club with 67.1%, meaning Sensi was the lifeblood of Roma. The club’s fate rested solely in his hands.
After the behind-the-scenes troubles were alleviated by Sensi’s ownership, he turned his attention to his real ambition of making his boyhood club a force on the pitch. After watching Roma’s fiercest rivals Lazio win the Scudetto at the turn of the Millenium, Sensi knew something drastic had to be done to overturn the balance of power in Italy’s capital city.
Sensi had already brought in another Roma icon, Fabio Capello, with the instructions to deliver the Scudetto. He spent £23m on Fiorentina’s goal-machine Gabriel Bastituta, as well as buying Emerson and Walter Samuel that summer. The Scudetto was duly won in 2000/01 by the team that Sensi built, making him Roma’s most successful President.
But as age and illness caught up with the seemingly forever-young Sensi, his role at the club was reduced and in 2008, he passed away at the age of 82. His daughter Rosella took the reins, keeping the club within the hands of the family that gave it the most successful period in its history. Unfortunately it now seems that era is coming to an end. Roma’s crippling debts of reportedly €325m mean that Rosella is on the brink of selling Italpetroli (and therefore her family’s share of the club) to UniCredit bank.
It seems a matter of when, not if, Roma is taken out of the hands of the Sensi family. It won’t just be Roma supporters who owe them a debt of gratitude for what they brought to the club, but every Italian football fan. The Sensi family are one of the last remaining traditional owners of a club, in a time where corruption and business comes before the sheer love of a club. Franco Sensi will always be one of the faces that typify Roma, and his family have done Serie A proud as their time in control of their local club comes to an end.