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Juventus penalty cut by half

The jury upheld the July ruling stripping Juventus of its last two titles, but removed the barrier for Milan playing in next season's Euro Champions League.
None | By Associated Press, Rome
UPDATED ON JUL 26, 2006 11:46 AM IST

Fiorentina and Lazio were restored to Serie A, while Juventus had its points penalty in Serie B cut almost in half on Tuesday after successful appeals in the Italian match-fixing scandal.

AC Milan also had its points penalty in Serie A cut from 15 to eight. Juventus' sanction was reduced from 30 to 17 points. Fiorentina will begin the new season with a 19-point penalty while Lazio will be penalized 11 points.

The sports court upheld the July 14 ruling stripping Juventus of its last two Serie A titles, but removed the barrier for Milan playing in next season's European Champions League.

Milan's point-penalty for last season was reduced from 44 to 30, placing it third in the standings and making it eligible to enter Champions League qualifying.

Five-year bans for former Juventus executives Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo, the figures at the center of the scandal, were upheld.

The pair, who resigned in May along with the entire Juventus board, were accused of creating a network of contacts with federation officials to influence refereeing assignments and get players booked, allegations that were at the heart of the scandal.

Hundreds of Lazio fans outside the hotel where the verdicts were delivered screamed in delight at the news their team was back in Serie A.

Tuesday's ruling ends the process in Italy's sports court system. Any further appeals would need to be taken through the country's civil courts, which could delay the start of the season set for August 28.

"For Juventus and its managers it's an absolutely unsatisfactory sentence," Moggi lawyer Fulvio Gianaria said.

Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli said the club would challenge the verdicts in the civil courts, while Milan lawyer Leandro Cantamessa said the club was still deciding whether to take that path.

If upheld or unchallenged, the demotion would be a first for Juventus since its birth in 1897.

The Turin-based powerhouse has won 29 league titles, including the ones stripped by Friday's verdict, two European Champions League titles, four Italian Supercups, three UEFA cups, two European Supercups and two Toyota or Intercontinental Cups.

The appeals body decision was announced a few hours after the close of the Milan stock exchange, where some of the clubs involved are listed.

In the July 14 ruling, Fiorentina was demoted to Series B and penalized 12 points to start next season, while Lazio was originally supposed to start the new season in B with a seven-point penalty.

All the clubs appealed, seeking lighter penalties. Juventus claimed the sanctions were excessive. AC Milan argued that its Champions League ban was unlawful.

AC Milan owner, billionaire businessman and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, was still complaining despite the softening of the penalties.

"I called Berlusconi to have confirmation we were in the Champions League and he told me that, in his judgment, injustice remains because Milan didn't do anything," Roberto Maroni, a former minister and political ally of Berlusconi said.

Soccer federation prosecutor Stefano Palazzi argued for even tougher punishment.

Palazzi called for Juventus to be demoted to Serie C; Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio to be demoted to Serie B with three-point deductions for Milan and 15 each for Lazio and Fiorentina.

The stiffest penalties for officials were those for Moggi and Giraudo. The appeals tribunal confirmed the initial court's recommendation that asked the Italian soccer federation to ban the two for life. The maximum punishment the sports court could impose is five years.

Other prominent officials had their sanctions reduced. Franco Carraro, the former head of the Italian soccer league who resigned in May amid the scandal and had originally received a 4 1/2-year ban, received a fine and a warning.

Fiorentina owner and industrialist Diego Della Valle had three months shaved off his four-year ban, while Lazio president Claudio Lotito's was banned for 2 1/2 years, a year less than in the initial sentence. Milan vice president Adriano Galliani received a nine-month ban, instead of one year.

With the verdicts still being deliberated, UEFA said on Tuesday it granted the Italian federation a one-day extension, till Wednesday, for submission of names of Italian clubs eligible to participate in European club competitions this coming season.

The list is required by UEFA to complete the preparations and seeding for the draws of the Champions League third qualifying round and UEFA Cup second qualifying round. The draws take place on Friday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

Several Serie A stars, including Italy and Fiorentina striker Luca Toni and Brazil and Milan playmaker Kaka, are expected to decide about their club futures based on the outcome of the trial.

Separately, prosecutors in Rome, Naples, Parma and Turin are conducting criminal probes into alleged sports fraud, illegal betting and false bookkeeping.

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