Ascoli FC may not be known to much of the soccer world. The Serie B side played below Italy’s top flight since their relegation in 2007.
However, the club is engrained in the history of Italian soccer. In fact, Ascoli is the fourth-oldest club in all of Italian soccer. The club started in 1898, and is older than the likes of AC Milan, Inter Milan and Roma.
Officially known as Ascoli Calcio 1898 F.C., the club hails from eastern Italy. Historically, the club fluctuates up and down the Italian pyramid. It won two Serie B titles (1977-78 & 1985-86) and two Serie C crowns (1971-72 & 2014-15). Their highest finish in all of Italy is fourth in Serie A, just missing out on a European spot in 1979-80.
Now, for the first time in their history, there is a significant American presence at the club. Matt Rizzetta, the Chairman of North Sixth Group, a family office holding company, recently acquired a 31 percent ownership stake in Ascoli FC.
For the first time in its 128-year history, an American is a member of the ownership of Ascoli.
It is not the first club that North Sixth Group is involved with. In December 2020, NSG acquired an ownership stake in S.S. Campobasso. With Campobasso, NSG became one of the first American ownership groups to earn promotion with a European soccer team, earning promotion to Serie C in Italy.
The aim of NSG extends far beyond success on the field. Building up the region would bring benefits in a variety of ways for all parties involved.
Moreover, Rizzetta and NSG represent a growing trend of American influence in the European game.
Ascoli FC under American Ownership
Matt Rizzetta may have grown up just outside of New York City, but the Italian game is part of his identity.
“Italian football was a big part of my childhood,” Rizzetta wrote via email to World Soccer Talk.
“My grandfather would tell me stories of Italian football and life in Italy. It was a source of great pride for him.”
Rizzetta turned his youthful dedication to the beautiful game into future opportunities.
“I have found that when you are passionate about something you usually end up being successful and getting the best outcomes.”
Now, Rizzetta heads the acquisition of one of the most historic teams in the country he holds dear. And where better to develop your involvement than with Ascoli FC, which has an impressive history.
Regardless, Rizzetta and NSG are less focused on the past, and more so the future.
Both on and off the field, there are certain goals and expectations for Ascoli FC. At the forefront of those is getting the club back to Italy’s top flight. Still, as is the case with ownership groups around soccer, there are goals beyond the pitch.
“Our vision is to expand the club’s footprint globally, to open up new streams of revenue, and then to reinvest as much as possible into the sporting side of the club so we can be competitive on the pitch.”
Part of expanding the global footprint comes from viewership. Therefore, Rizzetta surely welcomes the recent change of broadcasting rights for Serie B. Now, in the U.S., FOX Networks will broadcast Serie B games for the next three seasons. The partnership with Helbiz Media provides FOX exclusive audiovisual rights in the U.S. through the 2023-23 season.
Rizzetta says the “surreal” experience of involvement in Italian soccer all comes from passion.
It is something you can see in the stands and on the field throughout the levels of Italian league play. Ascoli FC is no different. In fact, Rizzetta believes the club contributed more than many other clubs in the country.
American Ownership in European Soccer
There is a trend where many of Europe’s elite teams find themselves under American ownership.
The Glazer family owns Manchester United, Stan Kroenke owns Arsenal and the Fenway Sports Group heads Liverpool.
Rizzetta believes his new ownership in Ascoli FC reflects their intentions.
“Football is the world’s sport, so by extension owning a football club puts you in position to conduct business globally, to access new networks and to interact with new and interesting people from all backgrounds across the world.”
For better or worse, American ownership of European teams brought money to the forefront.
Owning a soccer team does open new doors for opportunity. In regards to his new Italian club, Rizzetta has a laundry list of items he foresees.
“Content, sponsorships, merchandising, youth academy and scouting are all central parts of our strategy for the future of the club.”
Without looking too deep into the order of that list, monetary gain is undoubtedly something NSG is keeping their ownership eye on.
Now, Ascoli FC joins Serie A teams Fiorentina, AC Milan, Parma, Roma, and Spezia with teams that have a controlling stake in their club from an American or an American group.
READ MORE: How to watch Serie A on U.S. TV.
Ownership is no easy task, and Rizzetta understands that.
“As a football owner, you are representing not just your club, but also your city or region on a global level. Owning a football club is just as much a social and cultural responsibility as it is a sporting one.”
That cultural responsibility is especially prominent with Ascoli FC, according to Rizzetta.
“The fanbase in Ascoli is one of the most passionate in Italy, and the fans live and breathe the team.”
Rizzetta and NSG now face the task of bringing that fan base top flight soccer, something lacking in Ascoli since 2007.
Author: Kyle Fansler