Friday, October 27, 2006

Punishment reduced for trio

Juventus, Lazio and Fiorentina have had their Calciopoli penalties reduced, but Milan remain with an eight-point handicap.

Juve and Lazio had the biggest discount, as both have had eight points handed back to them after tonight’s verdicts from the Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) Court of Arbitration. Fiorentina were hoping for a substantial discount on their original 19-point penalty, but it has merely been cut to -15.

Milan’s appeal failed, as their eight-point handicap will stand for the 2006-07 campaign.

This means that the current Serie A table now has Lazio level with Milan on seven points and Fiorentina on 0 ahead of the Round 9 fixtures this weekend. In Serie B, Juventus leapfrog up to 10 points after their seven games.

The clubs lodged their appeals in front of the commission on October 11 and 12, but a decision was only formally announced this evening.

The original trial had inflicted more severe punishments on the sides, as Juventus, Fiorentina and Lazio were demoted to Serie B with penalties of 30, 12 and seven points respectively. Milan stayed in the top flight with a 15-point penalty. The quartet were also kicked out of European competitions.

These verdicts were cut on appeal so that only Juve remained in the Second Division with a 17-point penalty. Fiorentina and Lazio returned to Serie A, starting from -19 and -11, while Milan went back into the Champions League through the preliminary round and began the campaign from -8 points.

This could well be the final act in the scandal that has dragged on since the end of last season, amid wiretapping, match-fixing allegations and claims of pressure put on referees to favour certain sides.

Yet there may be more on the horizon, as clubs still unhappy with their lot could in theory appeal to the TAR tribunal. As it is outside the jurisdiction of the sporting courts, this civil action would infuriate the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and might earn new penalties for the sides involved. FIFA have already warned the clubs that if they go outside of the sporting courts, they should expect further punishments from the world's governing body.

CONI, the highest level of the sports justice system in Italy, also decided to annull the planned bans on playing home games, translating that into a cash sum. The proceeds from the first Milan and Juventus matches of the current campaign must be handed over to the Federation. Lazio will do the same with their first two games, while for Fiorentina the penalty is three home gates

Reggina and Serie B minnows Arezzo were also punished in the second wave of trials and started the campaign on -15 and -6 points respectively, but their cases will be examined in November.

Fiorentina were left irritated by tonight's outcome, as their 19-point penalty was cut by just four points. “Fiorentina and Juve were the teams most penalised by the original trials, now we have to see what exactly happened in this appeal, but I can say we certainly deserved a bigger discount,” said ex-Viola legend Giancarlo Antognoni.

The Viola are the only side likely to pursue their legal battle through the TAR civil courts. “It doesn’t seem as if four points are a lot in the grand scheme of things. Will we go to the TAR? I don’t know, you’d have to ask Diego Della Valle.”

Juventus claim the ulterior discount proves the club’s “willingness to promote the values of sporting behaviour.” This evening's reduction to just nine points puts them soundly back in the Serie B promotion race.

“Juventus accept the sentence handed out by the CONI Arbitration commission, which recognises at least in part the enormous effort and spirit of sacrifice shown by the club to renew its infrastructure and promote the values of sporting behaviour in favour of the entire football community,” read a statement.

The Bianconeri had argued that they were the only club in the scandal to take firm action in removing the directors accused of putting pressure on referees and the authorities to favour certain teams. The famous ‘Triade’ of Luciano Moggi, Roberto Bettega and Antonio Giraudo were removed from the Turin outfit.

The reduction of Juve’s handicap has leapfrogged them up to 12th place on 10 points – just eight behind leaders Genoa with a game in hand. The Bianconeri will play Frosinone tomorrow afternoon, face Brescia on Wednesday night and then travel to Napoli on Monday with renewed confidence. So far this season Didier Deschamps’ men have drawn one and won their last six on the trot.

Milan were furious with the rejection of their CONI appeal. The Rossoneri were the only ones not to have their 8-point penalty lowered and they showed their anger in a terse statement released a few minutes after the announcement. “The decision of the CONI Arbitration does not deserve any comment from A.C. Milan.”

Lazio have seen their punishment go from Serie B to the top flight minus three points, but still aren’t fully satisfied. “We are partially satisfied,” said lawyer Giammichele Gentile. “Obviously we could have had more, but have already received quite a bit. As a lawyer, I am satisfied as a large part of our reasoning was accepted and acknowledged. However, we were aiming for the total cancellation of the penalty, because all the accusations were false.”

The club claimed that being stripped of a UEFA Cup place, which they had earned last season, was punishment enough.


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