Casa Pia Atlético Clube was born in Lisbon over a hundred years ago, and is associated with an institution founded in 1780. It has a long and fascinating history in Portuguese sport and society. Now he’s celebrating his arrival in the league, which happened after joining that past into the present that goes through the very current logic of a partnership, in the case of Jezzy, with an American investor. This journey that has supported the club on its journey to the first division began less than two years ago and was a “perfect” courtship that will now lead to marriage. The photo was taken by Carlos Simويسes, the director who was the source of contact for American businessman Robert Pletke.
Let’s go back to 2019. At the end of that season, Casa Pella had been promoted to League Two, the first in the professional competitions for a club founded in 1920 by ex-Casabian students that had one league presence eighty years earlier, in 1938/39. . Vitor Franco, president since 2006, led a team in progress. The season has been hectic, with a battle in sporting justice over Ruben Amorim and the lack of qualifications for the current Sporting coach. Despite everything, Casa Bella rose and faced the season in the second league wanting to preserve the identity of an amateur club. But the requirements were different.
The 2019/20 season has been difficult for many reasons. When the pandemic paralyzed football, in March 2020, Casa Bella had 11 points in 24 games. The League of Clubs suspended the tournament, giving the rating final at that time, which meant the relegation of Casa Bella. The club was eventually reinstated, after F. Setúbal and de Avis, but he was at a crossroads.
“We went through great difficulties, financially and athletically. We finished the season with 11 points, also due to the lack of knowledge and experience in the professional leagues. We started that season and finished with great difficulty. After the end, there was uncertainty about whether we would stay in the second league or not, ” Carlos Simويسes, who arrived at the club precisely in 2019, to work in marketing and sponsorship, recalls: “We were having difficulties and had to rent the front on a sporting level, it’s the most appropriate picture.”
He explained that “shop window rental” involves finding “an investor that will help Casa Bia grow and make the sporting side more professional.” It was not an easy decision, first of all for Vitor Franco, who always resisted the idea of connecting “Gansos” with an investor. The president himself was resisting it. That’s exactly why we set up this type of business, different from all the others, to see if the relationship is going well and to evaluate it,” explains Carlos Simes: “I kept the bag. I had four potential investors. Portuguese, Brazilian, Colombian and American. I’ve been in football for 20 years, researching the market and talking to friends, explaining that what I was doing was a different business. Because we didn’t want to sell. We wanted, there, to rent the window.”
This is where the name Robert Platke comes from. The American businessman is a partner in MSD Group, a private investment firm that manages the assets of Michael Dell, founder of the computer and technology giant Dell. Casa Pia was his first investment in football. It’s a private bet from the Platek family, which has since moved on to two other teams: Sønderjysk Elitesport, in Denmark, and Spezia, of Italian Serie A, which became owner in February 2021. He quickly expanded the portfolio with two other clubs in other countries.
“The call came through a great friend, who told me he had access to an American group that wanted to invest in Portugal,” says Carlos Simويسes. “He was lucky. We hit the drink. Probably the best investor any club could have, whether from Where is the sporting ambition or the growth of the club. From there, everything starts to get facilitation.”
The difference in the ‘social aspect’ of Casa Bia
The director of Casa Pia believes that it was the club’s history and identity that drew Robert Platke to the project, whose work, through the Dell Foundation and his family, also had a social component. “What caught their attention was not only football, but the social aspect, which unites the social aspect with the sporting aspect. When I mentioned Casa Pia, they created the association: the school has a soccer club. When I told them it was a second-division club, they were even more surprised. I explained. That this is Casa Pia Atlético Clube, Casa Pia de Lisboa is something else, but we have a signed protocol and a very close relationship. And they sent someone to Portugal to assess it.”
The club maintains this official relationship with Casa Pia in Lisbon to this day, which includes, above all, Carlos Simões, the access of students of the institution to exercise. “We have about 400 to 500 athletes in different forms and they have direct access. As students of Casa Pia, they can use it for free. It also goes through partnerships with sponsors that provide, for example, internships to young Caspians when they finish their training, he says. “When we negotiated sponsorship, more than money, which is not so important at the moment, the question was what we can done to help the children of Casa Pia de Lisboa,” he said, “This is really a different club. We do not represent a district, a city. We represent a nearly 250-year-old institution. It’s not just a football club.”
We return to the partnership with Robert Platke. Immediately progressed in preparation for the 2020/21 season, with the appointment of a representative by the investor, Tiago Lopez, and the appointment of coach Felipe Martins, who has led the team along this journey, and the team’s formation, against the clock afterwards.. per the uncertainty of the months previous. The SDUQ constitution, a requirement for professional competitions, was approved in December 2020 at the club’s general meeting.
“Ready after two years for marriage”
The agreement initially reached with the investor was different from the norm, because Casa Bia was not firm, so there was no formal acquisition of the capital in the first stage. “We set up this kind of business unlike any other, and I think it was the first in Portugal. We are currently SDUQ, which means that professional football makes up 100% of the club”, says Carlos Simويسes. We’ve had many sleepless nights, the boss and I, trying to create a business that is mutually beneficial. It was a perfect marriage. When I went to get the investor he said, “We’ll keep dating for three years and then we’ll see if we’re married.” We are now ready, two years later, to get married.”
Marriage is a partisan situation. Obviously, investors at this point have every right to claim success. The time has come,” says the director, believing that this step will not change the balance that has been achieved so far: “At the moment, there is only one Casa Pia. The president of Casa Pia and the chief executive of football, Tiago Lopes, share the same office. It is clear that with SAD it will be different in terms of quota distribution, but in terms of implementation it will be the same. ”
There have been many examples in Portugal of cases where partnerships between clubs and investors have not gone well. Carlos Simões believes that with Casa Pia there is no such danger. “Casa Pia is a rich club. I have risen from the rubble with this president who spent 15 years in office. She has enough income to be able to accompany the investor, even in growth. She will have a percentage repayment and another investor. The difference I can guarantee will not be much. When The investor came in, he didn’t come up with that idea. He always came with a positive mindset to make Casa Bia grow and raise its name, not just on a national level.”
“The first club in this group is called Casa Pilla Atlético Club. At the moment they have two more and with the possibility in a very short period of time they will have two more possibilities. This is basically the mother house, and this is where it started from. The investor did not come here to sell Immediately,” he insists, “I don’t know if he’s thinking 10, 15 or 20 years from now: ‘I already have this and this, I’m going to bake a cake and sell it. We can’t know. I know they’re here to stay. They don’t need the money. for living “.
Robert Platke has not visited the club yet. “He’s in the middle of the pandemic, and when he got Spezia in the meantime, he didn’t stand a chance. He’s coming soon,” Carlos Simويسes says. He did not attend the team’s promotion party, which arrived a year earlier than expected. After finishing second in La Liga in ninth in a season 2020/21, this year’s Casa Bella was always on top and celebrated even in the last round, with a 5-1 home win against Lixuez. Now, in Pina Manic, people are still in ‘party mode.’ After a season with a budget of just under two million Euros, decisions on 2022/23 will be made in the coming days.
From works in Pina Manique to sharing Casapians
But work is already underway on that. From the start on the playing field it works. before talking to MoreCarlos Simões held a technical meeting with the architect to plan the restoration work at the Pina Manique stadium in order to host the league matches. “I don’t want time to be our opponent. We’ll have to leave, but we wanted to come back as quickly as possible,” he says. Casa Pia will start the season in Jamor and the goal is to return to Pina Manique at the end of the year. “I think when the World Cup is over we will go home,” he says.
Casa Pia’s strategy is also to grow in terms of partners. To do this, you will seek to benefit from history and “hunt” in the vast universe of the ancient Cassians. “Last season we had about 300 or 400 members. There are now about a thousand. We aim to triple by the end of the season. We’re doing something different for the Casapians, who are starting to join in, says Carlos Simويسes. “We want the families of the former students. We received congratulatory messages from Australia, Luxembourg, Belgium and the USA … All over the world, we are talking about about 300,000 graduates, we can say that we were the fourth national power,” he notes with a smile.