Productive appeals

Federal Court President Piero Sandulli reduces original punishments handed out to Italian clubs in the match-fixing inquiry. Lazio and Fiorentina are back in Serie `A'; Juventus have their 30-point Serie `B' deduction reduced to 17; AC Milan have their 15-point Serie `A' penalty for next season reduced to eight.

Lazio and Fiorentina have been reinstated to Serie `A' but Juventus remain in Serie `B' following their appeals against the sanctions imposed on them as a result of the Italian match-fixing scandal.

The Rome and Florence outfits were originally relegated to Serie `B' and docked seven and 12 points respectively for the new season. But they returned to the top flight following an announcement by Federal Court President Piero Sandulli. Fiorentina will start the new season with a 19-point deduction, while Lazio will start with an 11-point deficit. Juventus, the club hardest hit for breaking Italian Football Federation (FIGC) rules, remain in Serie `B' but have had their 30-point deduction reduced to 17. AC Milan, who avoided relegation under the original verdict, have seen their 15-point penalty for next season reduced to eight.

Milan, whose 44 points from last season were deducted in the original judgment, got the penalty slashed to 30 after appeal.

The verdict means Milan can, subject to UEFA permission, play in the forthcoming season's Champions League — along with Inter Milan, Roma and Chievo — entering the tournament through the qualifying rounds.

Both Juventus and Fiorentina were given three-match stadium bans, meaning they will play their first trio of home games in their 2006-07 campaigns on neutral territory. Lazio and Milan were handed two-match and one-match stadium bans respectively.

The scandal was uncovered as a result of a criminal investigation, which was launched before the start of the 2004-05 campaign by the Naples prosecutors' office. Telephone conversations between former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi and a referees supremo in charge of the appointments of officials during the 2004-05 season were tapped. Prosecutors based their probe on hundreds of bugged telephone calls between referee selectors, game officials and Moggi. After the original verdicts by the Federal Court were announced on July 14, Juve, Fiorentina, Lazio and Milan appealed risking the possibility of increased sanctions.

Stefano Palazzi, the Federal prosecutor who recommended harsher sentences for all the clubs at the start of the process, stuck by his initial conclusions — he had said Juve should have been sent to Serie `C', with Milan joining Fiorentina and Lazio in Serie `B'. The appeals court ruled that Fiorentina and Lazio should both be deducted 30 points from their 2005-06 season-ending total, meaning the pair will miss out on European football next season. The UEFA Cup places will instead be taken by Palermo, Livorno and Parma, the last named finishing a solitary point ahead of the Viola in the revised table. Lecce and Treviso are the clubs to lose out following the appeals verdict. The pair, who finished last season as the two bottom clubs in Serie `A', were reinstated to the top flight — along with 18th-placed Messina — after the original verdict. But with Fiorentina and Lazio back in Serie `A', Lecce and Treviso return to the second tier. Messina stay up, with Juventus failing in their bid to climb back into the top flight.

Several individual punishments have also been effected by the Federal Court's verdict, with Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani's ban from holding an active role at the club cut to nine months. Galliani, who was forced to resign in June as president of the Italian Football League (Lega Calcio), was originally handed a one-year suspension from all football activities. Lazio president Claudio Lotito saw his sentence reduced from three years to two years and six months while Fiorentina honorary president Diego Della Valle was given a ban of three years and nine months, a three-month reduction. Moggi, who resigned during the investigation, had his five-year suspension from all football activities upheld.

Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli, however, insists the two-month trial into match-fixing is not yet over and claims he will not accept the sentence. He said: "In the light of the facts that we have acquired so far, the sentence cannot be considered a balanced one. Juventus are paying too much. The difference in judgment between Juventus and the other clubs is entirely unjustified." The Juve president now intends to take the case to the regional administrative court. Juventus are already planning a further appeal, according to the club's solicitor Cesare Zaccone.

Appeals court judge Piero Sandulli defended the verdicts in the Italian match-fixing case. Sandulli cautioned critics not to question his decisions until examining his explanation, which will be given later. He said: "The sentences will be read before being criticised but once the reasons are made clear everything will be more clear and transparent. I have had the honour of working with four good judicial officials and it's true that we needed a long counsel to make our decisions."

Meanwhile, Inter Milan have been awarded the 2005-06 Serie `A' title, according to a statement from the club. Inter had finished third behind Juve and AC Milan, but with Milan also involved in the scandal and docked 30 points from last season's total, Inter have now been promoted to the top of the table. The title is Inter's first since 1989 and was awarded to them after a three-man panel of Gerhard Aigner, Massimo Coccia and Roberto Pardolesi — working on behalf of the Italian Football Federation — agreed to assign the 2005-06 title. The 2004-05 title, which Juve were also stripped of, has been revoked and will remain vacant for the time being.

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