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Italian Scandal Takes New Twist...

Teddy Rogers

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Teddy Rogers
The prosecutor in the Italian sports tribunal in Rome has today asked for the four clubs involved in the ongoing match-fixing scandal to be demoted from Serie A.

Speaking at the trial at the Olympic Stadium, the prosecutor Stefano Palazzi requested that Juventus be demoted to at least Serie C, and be stripped of the Serie A titles they have won in the past two seasons. He has also asked the sports trail to relegate relegate AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio to Serie B.

In his opening remarks, Palazzi claimed that the managers of the four teams were involved in a "malicious" and "sophisticated" system aimed at influencing referees and match results. As well as the possibility of the clubs being relegated, 26 club officials and referees face individual bans and sanctions if found guilty.

The trial opened last Thursday, but was suspended to give lawyers more time to study documents. It resumed on Monday, but the day was taken up with objections from defence lawyers so no witnesses could be called by the prosecution. However, former federation official Cosimo Maria Ferri was banned for life because he resigned after proceedings against him had begun.

One of the most high-profile individuals on trial is the former Italian Football Federation (FIGC) official Paolo Bergamo, who used to conduct the draw that assigned referees to Serie A matches. Today his lawyer has claimed his client had surrendered his membership of the FIGC and was not therefore liable to be tried by the sports tribunal.

"This morning Bergamo has taken the difficult decision to resign from the FIGC after 40 years of activity," said Gaetano Scalise, who also criticised the tribunal's decision to allow intercepted telephone calls to be used as evidence and attacked the "media circus" around the trial.

Bergamo has been at the heart of the scandal since telephone intercepts revealed him discussing refereeing appointments with former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi during the 2004-05 season. In May Luciano Moggi and the entire Juventus board resigned due to the scandal.

Today Palazzi claimed Moggi and former chief executive Giraudo had had continuous contact with refereeing officials on secure phone lines, and at frequent dinner parties organized to manipulate the refereeing system. In some intercepts, Moggi showed he had advance knowledge of referees' assignments "even before their names were released by the federation." Palazzi said. Other officials involved include Milan vice president Adriano Galliani, Fiorentina owner Diego Della Valle and Lazio president Claudio Lotito. All the accused have denied any wrongdoing.

Those found guilty can appeal, but the appeals process must be finished by July 27, in time for the FIGC to submit the list of teams for next season's Champions League and Uefa Cup competitions. The tribunal has said it aims to deliver its verdicts on July 10, the day after the World Cup final in Berlin.

The scandal is the largest in football history. Prosecutors in Naples, Rome, Parma and Turin are also conducting separate criminal probes into sports fraud, illegal betting and false bookkeeping - but any indictments could take months to be issued.

The latest developments will undoubtedly be a concern to Italian manager Marcello Lippi as he attempts to focus the Italy players ahead of tonight's World Cup semi-final against Germany in Dortmund.


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