Friday, July 07, 2006

Trail draws to a close

The match-fixing trial in Rome has come to a close, with Judge Cesare Ruperto (pictured) and the Federal Appeal Commission now retiring to the council rooms to consider their verdicts. After nine days of proceedings, the fates of four of Italy's top football clubs are now in the hands of a tribunal who will decide on their punishments should they be found guilty of sporting fraud.

Wire-taps of phone conversations between former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi and top Italian officials have sparked the biggest crisis in Serie A football for a quarter of a century, and the consequences could be severe for the teams involved. Chief prosecutor Stefano Palazzi has demanded that the Bianconeri be relegated to Serie C with a points deduction of six, with Serie B and 15 points knocked off for Lazio and Fiorentina and Serie B and 3 points deducted for Milan.

A judgement could be reached as early as Monday, just one day after the World Cup final where the Italian national side will take on France for the game's biggest prize, and prosecutors are also seeking heavy sanctions for the 25 individuals involved in the scandal.

Most observers expect Juve to be thrown out of Serie A. A lawyer for the Turin giants said the club might agree to relegation to Italy's second division - if found guilty, however Judge Ruperto has stated that a decision has not yet been made. "At minimum we will need three days, maximum 15," he said. "The verdict is not already written as someone says."

Ruperto also denied that the hearings, which had no time for witnesses or match footage, were proceeding too quickly, stating: "Nobody here is smothering the rights of the defence."

Defence lawyers insisted today that the case should be suspended, arguing that only a tiny percentage of Moggi's calls had been observed. Paolo Trofino also highlighted the role that the under-fire Juve officials have played in developing the stars that are currently providing the national team with such sterling performances in Germany. "The calls on which the investigation was based are approximately 40," he said. "We don't know what was in the rest... I'm asking you to suspend proceedings until we know what is in the other 99,960. On Sunday night, when Italy play France in the World Cup final, you will see on your television screens that more than a third of the players on the pitch were employed by Moggi and [Antonio] Giraudo. You will see (Italian coach Marcello) Lippi, who coached Juventus."

Any appeals must be processed before July 27 when UEFA must receive a list of which teams are entering European competitions next season.


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