Italian Giants Stunned by Match-fixing Punishment
After nearly a week of World Cup euphoria, football-mad Italians were confronted with a league landscape scorched by the punishment meted out to four Serie A clubs convicted of match-fixing. A disciplinary tribunal's decision to relegate Juventus, Lazio and Fiorentina to the second division and dock AC Milan 15 points next season was a body blow to the sport, newspapers declared. "Hammer blow," ran the headline in Gazzetta dello Sport, while the sports daily held out hope the sentences would be reduced on appeal. "But it's only the first round. The ball passes now to the federal court, the second and final stage of sports justice," the newspaper said. "It is not possible to imagine the verdict will be overturned. However, one could imagine a significant adjustment in the area of 'penalisation points'." An Italian Football Federation (FIGC) tribunal on Friday handed down its judgement in the match-fixing case involving the four clubs and 25 national and club officials, referees and linesmen. Juventus, as the club most heavily implicated in the scam, were stripped of their last two league titles and deducted 30 points next season, while Lazio and Fiorentina lost seven and 12 points respectively.
Although AC Milan escaped relegation, all four clubs have been banned from European competition. The clubs are expected to appeal against the sentences, with the FIGC anxious to settle the matter by UEFA's July 25 deadline for club submissions for the Champions's League and UEFA Cup next season. The relegations mean Lecce, Messina, and Treviso, who finished in the Serie A relegation zone, would retain their places in the top flight. Inter Milan, Roma, Chievo and Palermo could also expect entries to the Champions League. The four implicated clubs furnished more than half the Azzurri squad that defeated France in a penalty shootout to win the 18th World Cup, but calls for an amnesty were given short shrift by FIGC commissioner Guido Rossi. "Just 120 hours after the joyful day of the World Cup, Italian football is living the most unfortunate day of the first, historic relegation of Juventus into the second division," said the top-selling Corriere della Sera.
Il Messagero, meanwhile, dredged up French revolutionary history while invoking the infamous headbutt by French captain Zinedine Zidane that saw him sent off 10 minutes before the end of extra time. "The world turned upside down the day the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille," the newspaper said. "The amnesty party has suffered a series of headbutts even more violent than those of Zidane." Juventus former general manager Luciano Moggi, Fiorentina president Andrea Della Valle, Lazio chief Claudio Lotito and former FIGC president Franco Carraro are some of the officials who face bans of up to five years on sporting fraud charges. The scandal erupted when newspapers in May published telephone wiretaps that revealed Moggi telling a senior FIGC official which referees he wanted for certain league and European matches.
For La Stampa, which is part-owned, like Juventus, by the Agnelli family, the judgement by five retired judges was "a cruel and humiliating moment" for the giant Italian club. "In the matter of illegality, sports justice punishes even a simple attempt. Another Juve will arise and I hope, with all my heart, so too will Italian football," the newspaper said in an editorial. Watch the news report!