Thursday, May 18, 2006

Europeans shaken by Italian corruption allegations

Juventus were crowned back-to-back champions of Italy on Sunday but match-fixing allegations totally overshadowed the final day of the season, with the club’s 29th title surrounded by rancour and resignations. Shortly after Juve were presented with their trophy, Luciano Moggi, their general manager who is at the centre of the corruption investigations, announced he was quitting and the coach of rivals Inter Milan claimed recent championships were fixed. Italy’s outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who owns AC Milan, said the scandal meant that his club, who finished second in the past two seasons, should be awarded the last two titles. If found guilty of involvement in match-fixing, Juve could be stripped of their titles and demoted to Serie B.

The scandal has also led to a series of resignations at the Italian Football Federation and has resulted in 41 people being placed under investigation by public prosecutors, followed the publication of intercepted telephone conversations. In the phone calls, Moggi discussed refereeing appointments with senior federation officials during the 2004-05 season and also bragged of locking a referee in a changing room after a game. “I ask you for a courtesy, don’t ask me any questions because I don’t have the desire or the strength. I don’t have the soul for it, they have killed it,” Moggi told television reporters.

The IFF has been placed under emergency administration. The country’s national Olympic Committee, CONI, put Guido Rossi, a former head of the country’s stock market regulator, in charge of the federation with a six-month renewable mandate. “Football, our sport, needs to regain credibility,” said CONI president Gianni Petrucci, following the resignation of IFF president Franco Carraro and his vice-president Innocenzo Mazzini. Rossi, 75, said he planned to introduce new regulations to help clean up Italian soccer. “We need rules that will be a deterrent and with serious sanctions,” he said.

This latest European scandal comes onky a few months after Germany, the host of this year's World Cup, was shaken by similar disclosures, In November, the German referee Robert Hoyzer was sentenced to more than two years in prison after admitting that he had accepted money to fix the outcome of matches for a Croatian gambling syndicate.

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