Thursday, June 29, 2006

'Calciopoli' trial begins

The 'Calciopoli' trial that could see four of Italy’s biggest clubs demoted from Serie A kicked-off at Rome’s Olympic Stadium on Thursday. Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio – plus 26 individuals including Federation officials and referees – were indicted for sporting fraud last week in relation to a number of intercepted phone calls during the 2004-05 campaign.

Should any club be found guilty of wrongdoing, they could face a points deduction or demotion to a lower Division. Juventus may also be stripped of their last two Serie A titles. Individuals, none of whom are players, found guilty face suspensions from involvement in the game.

Cesare Ruperto, the tribunal’s President, declared the trial open at 9.30 local time with a roll call of the accused in arguably the biggest scandal to hit the Italian game in its history.

A total of six judges are hearing the case, which is simultaneously being televised to a nearby room in the arena which is expected to house up to 150 journalists from all over the world at any one time. Only members of the CAF tribunal, the accused and their lawyers will be allowed to enter the room where the trial is taking place.

Ruperto opened the sports trial by reading out the names of the accused to check if they were present. Former Italian Football Federation (FIGC) chief Franco Carraro, who quit in the aftermath of the revelations, was the first of the accused to arrive. He was followed by ex-FIGC colleague Innocenzo Mazzini and referee Massimo De Santis whose World Cup dream evaporated after he was named as part of the probe. Ex-Juventus general director Luciano Moggi (pictured), at the centre of the scandal, was not present. He claims he has no case to answer after he quit the club to walk away from football. Milan Vice-President and outgoing Lega Calcio (Italian Football League) chief Adriano Galliani, another of the accused, was present.

According to a strict timetable which has been drawn up by FIGC commissioner Guido Rossi, a verdict will be delivered between July 7 and 9. Any appeal verdicts will be handed out before July 20. The FIGC have set themselves such boundaries in an effort to inform UEFA of their European participants by July 27.

THOSE INDICTED: Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Luciano Moggi, Antonio Giraudo, Adriano Galliani, Leonardo Meani, Andrea Della Valle, Diego Della Valle, Sandro Mencucci, Claudio Lotito, Cosimo Maria Ferri, Franco Carraro, Innocenzo Mazzini, Tullio Lanese, Paolo Bergamo, Pierluigi Pairetto, Gennaro Mazzei, Pietro Ingargiola, Paolo Bertini, Massimo De Santis, Paolo Dondarini, Fabrizio Babini, Domenico Messina, Gianluca Paparesta, Gianluca Rocchi, Pasquale Rodomonti, Paolo Tagliavento, Claudio Puglisi.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pessotto attempts suicide?

Juventus' problems deepened today as team manager Gianluca Pessotto was described as being in a critical condition after jumping from his second floor office in an apparent suicide attempt.

The 35-year-old former Italy international defender, who was appointed to the post only last month, apparently climbed onto the window sill of his office, holding a set of rosary beads, and jumped off, bouncing off one car and onto another.

He was treated at the scene almost immediately and then taken by ambulance to hospital suffering from multiple fractures.

Pessotto, who won the 1996 Champions League with Juventus and played for them for 11 seasons retiring at the end of the last campaign, had apparently been on his own in his office at Juventus at the time of his fall.

News of Pessotto's being taken to hospital reached the Italian World Cup camp in Germany and a press conference called on the day after the team defeated Australia 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals was cut short. Azzurri captain and Juventus defender Fabio Cannavaro walked out the conference when he heard from journalists about Pessotto's fall.

Pessotto is not among those facing charges at the tribunal.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Inter threatening to go abroad

Internazionale owner Massimo Moratti is threatening to sensationally take his team abroad if any clubs found guilty of sporting fraud are not suitably punished.

The Calciopoli sporting trial starts on June 29 in which Juventus, Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina – plus 26 people – face a fight to clear their names.

And Moratti has maintained that he would consider transferring the Italian giants into a foreign championship if he’s not satisfied with the cleanliness of calcio.

“If you can’t play honest football here then perhaps there is the possibility of a League abroad wiling to house a great club,” he said. “I want to study that possibility.”

Moratti had previously been reserved in his thoughts with regard to the various scandals, but he’s clearly distraught and angered by the recent revelations.

“I feel conned,” stated the oil baron. “I keep thinking about all of the sacrifices that we made and what has come out has demonstrated that things are far worse than what we imagined.”

Inter have consistently failed to lift the Scudetto in recent years, often falling short of their rivals Juventus and Milan.

“We are not intervening in the trial,” added Moratti. “We have always respected the rules and will see what happens now.”

The clubs involved do face heavy punishments if found guilty of any wrongdoing such as demotion to a lower Division. There is also the possibility that Juve could be stripped of their last two titles.

“I wouldn’t miss the presence of Milan and Juventus ,” noted the Nerazzurri chief. “As for the Scudetto, that can be handed out to Chievo, Inter or Roma. If the sides who finished ahead didn’t comport themselves in the right manner then it is only right that the first ‘clean’ club should be considered as coming first.”

Moratti is also hoping that leniency isn’t shown to those who have gone down the wrong path in recent years. “People would be a little troubled if any sentences were not in line with the seriousness of what may have happened,” he added. “This is the time where football must give the right example otherwise there would be a risk that it would no longer be considered as a serious sport.”

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Who is charged with what?

These are the 26 officials who face charges in the Calciopoli scandal...

Luciano Moggi - Former general manager of Juventus. Part of the so-called "Triad" - the others being former chief executive Antonio Giraudo and former vice-president Roberto Bettega - that ran Juventus for 12 years. He quit last month. The scandal began when newspapers published intercepted telephone conversations between Moggi and senior football federation officials discussing refereeing appointments for games in the 2004/05 season.

Antonio Giraudo - Former chief executive of Juventus. Also features prominently in the phone taps. Also under investigation by magistrates in Turin on suspicion of "false accounting" in relation to Juventus's transfer activities.

Adriano Galliani - Vice-president of AC Milan and former President of the Italian Football League (Lega Calcio), the organisation that looks after the interests of clubs in Italy's top two divisions. His dual role had led to accusations of a conflict of interests.

Leonardo Meani - A member of Milan's management. Newspapers published phone taps in which he spoke to the official assigning linesmen in April 2005, complaining about a linesman he selected after Milan lost to Siena.

Diego and Andrea Della Valle - Diego is the owner of Fiorentina. His brother Andrea is the club's president. In the phone taps the brothers complain about refereeing decisions with Moggi and FIGC official Paolo Bergamo in the 2004-05 season when the club risked relegation.

Sandro Mencucci - Director general of Fiorentina. In phone taps dating from the end of the 2004-05 season he tells Bergamo and Innocenzo Mazzini that Diego Della Valle will not continue to promote the interests of Serie A's smaller clubs in return for favours from referees.

Claudio Lotito - President of Lazio and its biggest shareholder. In the phone taps he tells former FIGC vice-president Innocenzo Mazzini that Diego Della Valle has made him "a bandit's offer" in relation to their game against Fiorentina at the end of the 2004-05 season. Lotito is also under investigation by magistrates in Milan on suspicion of market-rigging involving Lazio shares.

Franco Carraro - Former FIGC president. Carraro resigned on May 8. He was questioned by magistrates on suspicion of knowing about the manipulation of refereeing appointments but doing nothing to stop it.

Innocenzo Mazzini - Former vice-president of the FIGC. Resigned on May 11. In intercepted telephone conversations with Moggi he makes disparaging references to Carraro and discusses which Juventus delegate will be attending a meeting on refereeing appointments.

Cosimo Maria Ferri - A member of the FIGC's commission for economic disputes. Charged with knowing about the manipulation of refereeing appointments in relation to Lazio matches but doing nothing to stop it.

Pierluigi Pairetto - The FIGC official in charge of assigning referees to Serie A games during the 2004-05 season and a former member of UEFA's refereeing commission. In the phone taps he tells Moggi the name of the referee for Juventus's Champions League match against Ajax in September 2004 two weeks before the game. UEFA rules state the name of a referee is to be communicated only 48 hours before the match.

Paolo Bergamo - A former FIGC official. Worked with Pairetto during the 2004-05 season, assigning referees for Serie A games.

Tullio Lanese - Former president of the Italian Referees Association. Investigated by FIGC magistrates on suspicion of knowing about Moggi's manipulation of referees but doing nothing to stop it.

Gennaro Mazzei - A former FIGC official in charge of assigning linesmen to Serie A matches.

Pietro Ingargiola - Former observer for the Italian Referees Association. In phone taps he claimed to have been present when Moggi and Giraudo locked referee Gianluca Paparesta in his dressing room following Juventus's 2-1 defeat by Reggina in November 2004. Ingargiola did not report the incident.

Massimo De Santis - Italian referee. De Santis was the FIGC's proposed referee for the World Cup, but was withdrawn, along with two linesmen, after he was drawn into the match-fixing investigation.
Paolo Bertini - Serie A referee.
Paolo Dondarini - Serie A referee.
Domenico Messina - Serie A referee.
Gianluca Paparesta - Serie A referee.
Gianluca Rocchi - Serie A referee.
Pasquale Rodomonti - Serie A referee.
Paolo Taglivento - Serie A referee.

Fabrizio Babini and Claudio Puglisi - Leonardo Meani asked Gennaro Mazzei for Babini and Puglisi to be assigned to Milan's match against Chievo in April 2005. Puglisi was a noted Milan fan. Meani got his wish and his team beat Chievo 1-0.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Moggi to escape Calciopoli?

Luciano Moggi’s lawyers claim he can’t go on trial due to a technicality, while Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti could be dragged into the scandal.

Moggi was one of 26 people – and four clubs, Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio – indicted after the investigation into alleged match-fixing and collusion with referees. However, his lawyer insists the man whose tapped phone calls at the centre of the inquest won’t be punished.

“He is no longer registered with the FIGC and therefore cannot be put on trial by the sporting justice system,” explained Paolo Trofino. As Moggi resigned from his position of director general of Juventus, in theory he could be exempt from the trial which begins on June 29.

One of the referees indicted is Massimo De Santis, who chose to go on the attack today by aiming accusations at some people who were not named by the prosecutors.

“We have presented an appeal to the Disciplinary Commission so that they can analyse Carlo Ancelotti’s position,” said De Santis. “How could Ancelotti have spent all that time at Juventus with these people and not noticed anything was wrong?”

Ancelotti was on the Bianconeri bench from 1998 to 2001, though he was never able to win the Scudetto.

The referee then insisted he was not guilty of the charges that he helped fix matches in Serie A as part of the ‘Moggi System’. “I expect justice. If I have made mistakes, they were on the field, but I don’t even think there were any in the ties named in this investigation. If these are irregularities, then we’d have to prosecute every referee since football began. All that interests me now is resolving my position.”

Indictments overshadow Italian win

Four of Italy’s top football teams were charged last night in a match-fixing scandal that has besmirched a national passion and shaken the stock market.

Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina face relegation from the top flight if they are found guilty at a trial next week of rigging matches.

Thirty other football officials, including referees, were indicted for “sporting fraud”, but their names were withheld “for reasons of privacy”, the Italian Football Federation said. They are believed to include Franco Carraro, former federation president, and Adriano Galliani, the AC Milan chief executive

Stefano Palazzi, the prosecutor, delayed publication of the charges until after the World Cup match between Italy and the Czech Republic. The Azzurri team featured five players from Juventus and AC Milan, whose club futures are now in doubt. To the relief of Italian football fans outraged by the corruption scandal, Italy won 2-0 to reach the second round, where they will meet Australia.

Filippo Inzaghi and Gennaro Gattuso, two of the heroes of yesterday’s World Cup performance, play for AC Milan, and three, Fabio Cannavaro, Italy’s captain, Gianluca Zambrotta and Gigi Buffon, the goalkeeper, play for Juventus. A total of 13 players in Italy’s World Cup squad are employed by teams implicated in the scandal.

All may now be forced to leave their clubs, which will be unable to pay their salaries after losing valuable sponsorship and income from taking part in Europe’s top competitions.

The corruption scandal broke last month when newspapers published intercepted conversations between Luciano Moggi, the former general manager of Juventus, and senior officials of the football federation discussing the appointment of referees during the 2004-05 football season.

Italian authorities were put under intense pressure by UEFA, European football’s governing body, to conclude the inquiry before the start of the next season. The Italian Football Association has promised to impose sanctions by July 9, the date of the World Cup final. Magistrates are also investigating the sports management agency GEA World, run by Signor Moggi’s son, Alessandro, over claims of “unfair competition with use of violence and threats”. GEA World has nearly 200 Italian players and coaches on its books.

Signor Palazzi acted after receiving a report on Monday by Francesco Saverio Borelli, a retired magistrate who has conducted an intensive six-week inquiry.

It heavily criticises Juventus, which this season won its 29th league title but stands accused of systematic match-rigging. The club faces demotion to Serie B or even C1 and could be stripped of the Serie A titles it won in the past two seasons.

Guido Rossi, President of the football association, said that Signor Palazzi’s decisions to prosecute over the scandal - the worst in the history of Italian football - had been made on Wednesday. But the announcement of his findings was delayed until after the World Cup match and the closure of the Milan stock exchange, on which Juventus and Lazio are quoted.

Since the scandal broke in early May, Juventus shares have lost half their value and yesterday were trading at €1.23 (84p). The clubs charged face trial at a sports tribunal to be held by the football association next week at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. The trial is expected to deliver its verdicts between July 7 and 9, the weekend of the World Cup final. State prosecutors will then decide whether to proceed with criminal charges.

Any clubs found guilty of impropriety face penalties ranging from deduction of points from last season’s tally to relegation to a lower league. Individuals found guilty will be given lengthy bans from the game.

Silvio Berlusconi, the former Prime Minister and owner of AC Milan, insisted that Milan was not guilty of corruption but had itself been “defrauded”. “We expect two titles at the minimum,” he said, in apparent reference to title holder Juventus, which has won the past two championships.

Any club or individual that is convicted can ask for an appeals trial, which the football association has promised will end by July 27, in time for it to tell UEFA which teams will compete in next season’s Champions League and UEFA Cup competitions.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Galliani steps down as Lega Chief

AC Milan vice-President Adriano Galliani has stepped down as President of Lega Calcio following his indictment in a wide-ranging match-fixing scandal.

Galliani is to face charges of unloyal behaviour in a sports trial opening in Rome on June 28. Stefano Palazzi, the prosecutor named by the FIGC, wrote in his indictment that Galliani 'fully approved' the conduct of Leonardo Meani, a Milan official in charge of relationships with referees.

In telephone taps, Meani allegedly contacted a referee selector to obtain the assignment of game officials who could favour Milan.

Galliani said that his resignation after four years at the helm of the Lega should not be interpreted as an admission of responsibility.

Serie A quartet to stand trial

Serie A champions Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio have been named as the four teams who will face a sports court over allegations of corruption in Italian football. The hearings will begin on Thursday 29 June at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, Italian federation (FIGC) prosecutor Stefano Palazzi confirmed.

The scandal broke when Italian newspapers published transcripts of telephone conversations between senior FIGC officials and Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi discussing refereeing appointments. Moggi resigned following the revelations.

While Juventus were the side at the centre of the inquest, the Turin giants are expected to run the biggest risks. They could face anything from docked points to stripped titles and demotion into Serie B or even Serie C. However, as yet the FIGC has not confirmed what precisely the prosecutors are asking for. It's believed that information will be released tomorrow.

AC Milan insisted they were the victims of sporting fraud rather than the perpetrators, but they too have been indicted. Lazio and Fiorentina are thought to have had secondary roles, yet risk demotion if their involvement in sporting fraud is proved.

With 13 members of Italy's squad at the World Cup playing for the four teams, the FIGC waited for the conclusion of the Azzurri's final World Cup Group E game against Czech Republic before making the announcement. Italy won the match 2-0 to progress to the knockout stages.

In an eight-line press release, it was confirmed that defendants from the four clubs would receive the 108-page dossier into the investigations tomorrow morning. A total of 30 people are under investigation, but due to Italian privacy laws, none of the names could be released.

The clubs have been indicted for violation of Article 1 and/or 6 of the Code of Sporting Justice. Article 1 refers to the “general duties and obligations”, whereas Article 6 is more serious. The latter notes: “altering the result of a match or securing an advantage in the table with any means is considered sporting fraud. The clubs, its directors and players have the duty to inform the authorities if they believe this is in progress.” In effect, a club or individual only charged under Article 1 does not risk a great deal, but Article 6 is where the serious repercussions come in. Even then, it depends on whether they are in direct or indirect violation of Article 6.

The FIGC intend to conclude the trial by July 9, when the World Cup final will be played in Berlin so any appeal will be heard between July 7 and 9. The final appeal, at the Federal Court, will give its verdict before July 20.

Juventus finished top of the table ahead of second-placed AC Milan in Serie A last season, but were only awarded the title on a "provisional" basis, according to former FIGC president Franco Carraro. Carraro resigned in May, along with Moggi and the entire Juventus board.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Italy braced for fallout from scandal

In Rome tomorrow, just as Italy wind down their Group E match against the Czech Republic, prosecutors will charge the clubs and individuals involved in the match-fixing scandal.

The eventual outcome could see some unfamiliar names among Italy’s representatives in the Champions League and UEFA Cup next season as the four clubs directly involved in the scandal - Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio - face punishments from demotion to points deductions.

Thirteen members of the Azzurri World Cup squad play for the four clubs and their future is in question, particularly those who play for Juventus, who are likely to be relegated. Players such as Gianluigi Buffon, Gianluca Zambrotta, Mauro Camoranesi and Fabio Cannavaro will probably move on.

The punishment handed to Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina - whose alleged crimes are lesser than those of Juve - are likely to be directly proportional. If Juventus are sent down to Serie C1, then the trio will likely be relegated from the top tier. Otherwise, the three clubs will face points penalties that, in the case of Milan and Fiorentina, will deprive them of Champions League football and could yet lead to a mini fire-sale of stars such as Kaká and Luca Toni.

As it stands, Italy’s list of teams in Europe next season is likely to include Inter, Roma, Chievo and Palermo in the Champions League and Ascoli, Empoli, Livorno and Parma in the UEFA Cup.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Calciopoli investigation concluded

The man the Italian Football Federation put in charge of investigating the biggest scandal in Serie A history concluded his investigation today.

Francesco Saverio Borelli, who headed the "Clean Hands" investigations into political corruption in the 1990s, will hand over the results of six weeks of interviews with referees and officials from leading officials to FIGC prosecutor Stefano Palazzi.

Speculation in the Italian media suggests that Borrelli's report was not expected to recommend specific sanctions, leaving it up to Palazzi to decide which clubs or individuals should be charged and stand trial.

Meanwhile, AC Milan fans are sweating about the prospect of following their team in Serie B next year, after media speculation suggested the club is more heavily implicated in the Calciopoli scandal than previously thought.

The indictments will be issued by Palazzi after the Italian stock exchange closes on Thursday - and just after Italy play a key World Cup tie against the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

News Round-up

Prosecutors question Lazio President
Last week, Lazio president Claudio Lotito was questioned for about six hours by Naples prosecutors investigating match-fixing and manipulation of referee assignments in Italy's top flight.

Galliani defends Milan
On Friday, Adriano Galliani, vice-president of AC Milan, accused Juventus of trying to involve his club in the match-fixing scandal.

Rossi promises FIFA reform
Italian football's emergency supremo Guido Rossi outlined the reforms he will introduce to clean up Serie A during a meeting with FIFA President Joseph Blatter. These reportedly included ways to rein in spending and better regulate the transfer and TV rights markets, possibly via a new government authority.

No Intertoto
Italian clubs will not enter this summer’s Intertoto Cup while the match-fixing investigation is in full swing, confirmed the FIGC.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Moggi: I was Milan's victim

Luciano Moggi’s lawyer claims the former Juventus general manager was a victim of Milan’s power rather than the puppet master of Italian football.

The transfer guru’s intercepted phone calls sparked the wide-ranging Calciopoli scandal amid allegations of match-fixing and collusion with referees, re-named the ‘Moggi System’ by the press, but he is taking on a new line of defence as Juve risk docked points or even demotion.

“Moggi has always moved only to preserve Juventus’ status against the real power centres,” claimed lawyer Fulvio Gianaria in newspaper La Stampa. “I am referring to Milan, who have the television companies and therefore the possibility to negotiate and buy up the pay-per-view rights of the clubs.”

Gianaria is referring to the fact that Silvio Berlusconi, who owns Milan, also has substantial shares in Mediaset.

So far the Rossoneri have had only a marginal role in the investigation and the telephone calls intercepted have mainly suggested they were trying to prevent Moggi and Juventus dominating the system.

Now Moggi and his legal team claim the situation is reversed, creating even more confusion in the inquest. “The intercepted conversations were between six or seven people and the police have whittled down 2,500 calls to around 40 to support their theory of a football Mafia dominated by Moggi,” continued the lawyer.

“We want to listen to and collate every single phone call to show the real power centres: television rights, the strength of clubs and the corporations within the football system. To think Moggi could not only re-balance that situation, but even become the real power, is a joke. If we don’t have the documentation, we cannot defend ourselves, so we won’t go to any interrogation for the moment.”

As Moggi has now resigned as Juve director general, he is no longer legally obligated to attend an interrogation by the Italian Football Federation.

Milan have reacted angrily to these allegations and released a statement this afternoon. “Milan deplore the manifestly untrue statements that we buy and sell television rights. This is completely absurd.”

Meanwhile, public prosecutors interrogated Lazio President Claudio Lotito today over allegations of match-fixing and financial irregularities.

“We are able to prove that what we have been accused of does not square with the reality of the situation,” he said as he left the building. “Lazio are totally alien to conditioning and illegitimate interests. This is a clear and honest club based on the principles and values of sport. I’ve done nothing wrong and have no reason to be worried.”