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Italy under pressure to shun match fixers

Italian football is under pressure to put its house in order after the alleged involvement of Juventus in match fixing.

india Updated: May 17, 2006 12:04 IST

With the world watching closely, Italian football is under intense pressure to put its house in order after the latest scandal to bring shame on the country's favourite sport.

Juventus retained the Serie A title on Sunday, but their 29th Scudetto has been tainted by the club's alleged involvement in match-fixing last season.

A Naples prosecutor and the Italian football federation for suspected sporting fraud are currently investigating them. The scandal prompted the entire Juventus board to resign last week, while general director Luciano Moggi quit on Sunday.

If found guilty, Juventus could be relegated to the second division for next season, but many observers feel they will be treated with leniency because their owners are the powerful Agnelli family.

The Agnellis also control FIAT, the country's largest car manufacturer, and are the closest thing Italy has to a royal family.

Rome-based writer Paddy Agnew, who has followed Serie A for 20 years and has just written a book about Italian football entitled 'Forza Italia', believes strong action must be taken if the 'calcio' is to restore its battered image.

"If Juventus, Italy's most successful and most prestigious club, has been cheating, then they must pay," Agnew said.

"If the federation do punish them, they will send out a strong signal. You're talking about the biggest corruption scandal in Italian football since the Second World War - it's monstrous."

"There's been too much in the media and there will be vicious pressure from FIFA and UEFA. It's not just about Serie A, it's about the Champions League, European championships, the World Cup."

"If you want to play in the world game, then you have got to meet certain standards. UEFA will be looking at Italian football and they will see a product in decline - poor stadiums, deterioration of fan behaviour and scandals. That can't continue, because football is so international."

Agnew said the state investigation is likely to run and run, possibly for several years, while the sports judiciary will have to act more quickly.

"There are two tracks. The state judicial track will be slow, and the sports judicial will be relatively quick. When I say quick, I mean before the start of next season."

Italian media have reported that the 2006-07 season may be put back to October to allow more time to resolve the situation.

Agnew believes there is hope for Italian football if the authorities come down hard on the offenders.

"This is a great opportunity to clean up a lot of things," he said.

"They also have to redivide the financial cake. At the moment there is no collective bargaining. The big clubs have all the say."

"If the championship was more even, then people like Moggi wouldn't be able to entrench themselves in power and take control."

First Published: May 16, 2006 09:56 IST