Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Juventus and others demoted, docked points

MATCH-FIXING VERDICT Juve, Lazio and Fiorentina were demoted, docked points and stripped of recent titles while AC Milan received a massive 44-point penalty

DPA , ROME

A Fiorentina supporter shows his disappointment in Florence late on Friday after the Italian Soccer Federation panel's chief judge Cesare Ruperto read out the verdicts relating to the soccer scandal in Italy after a week spent considering the verdicts at Rome's Olympic stadium.

PHOTO: EPA

Soccer giants Juventus were on Friday night demoted to Italy's second division along with Lazio of Rome and Fiorentina and stripped of its last two league titles over a major match-fixing scheme.

Rome's sports tribunal judges also inflicted a 44-point penalty on AC Milan, meaning the club will be prevented from taking part in next year's European tournaments and will have to start the next Serie A season with a 15 point penalty.

Juventus, the club most heavily involved in the scandal, loses last season's and this season's league titles and was handed a 30 point penalty. Lazio and Fiorentina will start the next season in Serie B with a 7 point and 12 point penalty respectively.

Judges also convicted a number of club managers as well as referees and Italian Football Federation officials. The main man in the affair, former Juve director Luciano Moggi, was banned from soccer for five years.

The sentence, though more lenient than what prosecutors had asked for, was set to revolutionize Italian soccer for years to come.

It came just five days after Italy's World Cup victory and was likely to seriously damage Italy's chances of hosting the European Championships in 2012.

Juventus, which is considered Europe's fourth-richest club, will miss out on receipts from their Champions League appearances -- estimated at around 50 million Swiss francs (US$40.5 million) -- as well as lucrative television and sponsorship deals worth hundreds of millions of euros.

Moreover, the 30-point penalty means the Turin club will face a major challenge trying to return to Serie A. Juventus had never before been relegated in their 108-year-old history.

The verdict was also expected to spark an exodus of star players as the relegated clubs will find it difficult to honor their expensive contracts.

Juventus alone had no less than eight players taking part in Sunday's World Cup final, five for Italy and three for France.

In all, 13 of the 23 players who formed part of Italy's World Cup squad belonged to clubs involved in the scandal.

Among those tipped to leave are Juve's Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta and Gianluigi Buffon, Fiorentina top striker Luca Toni and possibly also Milan's Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Alessandro Nesta and Brazilian ace Kaka.

Top clubs like Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United are all expected to seek their services in the coming season.

All of the match-fixing allegations, which revolve around a series of wiretapped conversations involving club managers and referee selectors, date back to the 2004-2005 season.

Moggi and Juve chief executive Antonio Giraudo, who have both resigned over the issue together with the whole club board, were accused of creating a powerful and vast organization designed to control the selection of referees assigned to the team's matches.

According to judges, Moggi imposed his choices on referee selectors Paolo Bergamo and Pierluigi Pairetto. In return, Moggi promised to foster the career of obliging referees like Massimo De Santis thanks to his connections within the FIGC.

Fiorentina owners Diego and Andrea Della Valle were accused of agreeing to submit to the so-called Moggi system to avoid relegation and of fixing five key Serie A matches.

Lazio, which like Fiorentina also risked relegation during the same season, were similarly accused of buckling under Moggi's pervasive influence. According to judges, owner Claudio Lotito obtained favorable referees for four of its Serie A games.

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