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New investors eye Servette rescue

Malcolm Curtis · 2 Mar 2012, 10:52

Published: 02 Mar 2012 11:03 GMT+01:00
Updated: 02 Mar 2012 10:52 GMT+01:00

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For the second time since 2005, the Geneva football club Servette is on the brink of collapse.

The club, headed by Iranian businessman Majid Pishyar since 2008, filed for bankruptcy on Thursday after racking up debts of five million francs.

Pishyar issued a statement expressing frustration over the lack of financial support from the Geneva government and “financial circles” for the struggling team.

Last year, the entrepreneur brought on board Robert Hensler, the former top civil servant for the canton of Geneva, as vice-president in a bid to secure such support.

But now only a quick infusion of cash from new owners can prevent the Swiss Super League football team from folding.

Le Matin newspaper reported on Friday that two groups were interested in taking over the club but no firm details have emerged so far.

Servette, a team with roots going back to 1890, previously went bankrupt under French owner Marc Roger, who was later convicted of forging financial documents after running up debts of around 10 million francs.

The team ended up in the third division but quickly won promotion to the second division. 

Under Pishyar’s ownership, Servette, knowned as the “Grenat”, secured a place in the top-tier Super League for the 2011-12 season.

But the team has been run on a shoe-string, with a budget for players’ salaries that is reputed to the lowest in the league.

If the team is not resurrected, it will leave a hole in the calendar of events at the 30,000-seat Geneve Stadium where the team plays its home games.

For Pishyar, the Servette failure is the latest setback for a self-confessed football fanatic.

In 2004, the businessman, through his 32 Group company, took over Admira Wacker, a top club in the Austrian football club.

But that team too ran into financial problems and within three years was relegated to the country’s third division.

In 2007, Admira Wacker were placed in liquidation with debts of 3.2 million francs.

Servette’s problems come on the heels of the bankruptcy of Neuchatel’s Super League team Xamax in January.

Xamax’s owner, Bulat Chagaev, a Chechen trader based in Geneva, was arrested for suspected fraud and financial mismanagement in connection with the affair.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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