Media Uncover Match-Fixing in Italian Soccer Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Italian media revealed wire-tapped conversations between the former team manager of the popular Juventus soccer club, Luciano Moggi, and Italian Football Association officials about appointing particular referees to particular games. Four of the premier clubs in Italian soccer were implicated in the scandal, and several sports executives were convicted and imprisoned. Most shocking was the demotion of Juventus to a lower division of play.

Summary of Event

The corruption scandal that struck Italian soccer in 2006 enveloped four of the most famous and successful teams in the history of the sport. In soccer-crazed Italy, Juventus stands as the most storied team in the country and is the third most successful soccer team in all of Europe. Formed in 1897, the Turin-based club has won more than fifty trophies. Prior to the 2006 scandal, the team spent its entire history in Serie A, the upper division of Italian soccer. Accordingly, it has the largest fan base in all of Italy with about 11 million fans, as well as 28 million registered fans throughout Europe and an estimated 170 million fans worldwide. It is the most popular soccer team in the world. [kw]Soccer, Media Uncover Match-Fixing in Italian (May 4, 2006) Soccer;game fixing Moggi, Luciano Giraudo, Antonio Berlusconi, Silvio Juventus soccer club Milan soccer club Italian Football Federation Soccer;game fixing Moggi, Luciano Giraudo, Antonio Berlusconi, Silvio Juventus soccer club Milan soccer club Italian Football Federation [g]Europe;May 4, 2006: Media Uncover Match-Fixing in Italian Soccer[03590] [g]Italy;May 4, 2006: Media Uncover Match-Fixing in Italian Soccer[03590] [c]Corruption;May 4, 2006: Media Uncover Match-Fixing in Italian Soccer[03590] [c]Sports;May 4, 2006: Media Uncover Match-Fixing in Italian Soccer[03590] [c]Organized crime and racketeering;May 4, 2006: Media Uncover Match-Fixing in Italian Soccer[03590]

The soccer club Associazione Calcio Milan, commonly known as AC Milan or Milan, formed in 1899 and also spent most of its history in the top ranks of soccer. It has won eighteen international titles, more than any other soccer team in existence. In 1986, entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi acquired the team and retained ownership while he served three terms as prime minister of Italy. Berlusconi owned the club during the scandal.

Società Sportiva Lazio, known as SS Lazio or Lazio, formed in Rome in 1900. Although not as successful as Juventus or AC Milan, Lazio has spent most of its history in Serie A and is not a stranger to scandal. A 1980 incident involving illegal betting resulted in the club being temporarily demoted, along with AC Milan, to Serie B. Lazio suffered a loss of season points in 1986 for illegal betting by a player. In 2002, the club’s owner, Sergio Cragnotti, was involved in a financial scandal with his food-services company, which forced him to reduce spending and ultimately sell the club. By 2006, Lazio had rebounded and was enjoying a successful season with a roster of inexpensive players.

ACF Fiorentina soccer club Fiorentina, generally known as Fiorentina, formed in 1926 in Florence. The club has also spent most of its existence at the Serie A level. The club went bankrupt in 2002 and essentially ceased to exist for two months until being revived by a new owner. Beginning at the Serie C level, Fiorentina worked its way back to Serie A by the end of the 2003-2004 season. By 2006, the club was struggling to avoid being relegated back to Serie B and desperately needed every victory that it could obtain.

On May 4, details of match-fixing between Luciano Moggi, general manager of Juventus, and an official responsible for refereeing assignments were printed on the front page of Italy’s largest newspaper. Moggi and Antonio Giraudo, a Juventus chief executive, were accused of creating a network of soccer federation officials, team owners, referees, and journalists to influence refereeing assignments and thus the outcome of league games. Moggi pressured the vice chairman of the Union of European Football Associations Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) referees committee to favor Juventus. He also spoke to Italy’s interior minister to persuade him to allow Juventus to play a game with Fiorentina after that game had been postponed following the death of Pope John Paul II.

Moggi and Giraudo also were accused of detaining and berating a referee for not favoring Juventus during a November, 2004, game. Television pundits were implicated for having suppressed discussion of controversial decisions that favored Juventus. Moggi and Giraudo resigned later in the month, along with Juventus’s entire board.

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) began investigating forty-one people. In July, 2006, a FIGC prosecutor charged four teams with sports fraud. Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio, and Fiorentina were ordered before the largest sports tribunal ever held in Italy in an improvised courtroom in Rome’s Olympic Stadium. The tribunal, which included a panel of six judges and twenty-six officials, including referees, was not, however, a criminal proceeding.

The prosecutor asked Italian judges to punish the clubs in a way that would deter others from thinking about corrupting soccer. He demanded that Juventus be dropped two divisions and that the other clubs also be demoted. However, justice minister Mario Clemente Mastella declared himself and many other fans to be in favor of amnesty for the clubs as a way of holding on to those star Italian players who would possibly flee abroad. After Mastella’s pronouncement, other politicians aligned on the question of amnesty according to their allegiance to the various clubs. Berlusconi lobbied against a demotion for any of the teams.

A team’s relegation to a lower division would result in a significant financial setback. Juventus, with stock sold on the Milan stock exchange, faced the risk of bankruptcy, as major sponsors would flee a club that no longer played Serie A. The other teams, less prominent, also would lose sponsorships and the ability to pay the salaries of top players. The four implicated teams included thirteen players from Italy’s World World Cup Cup team. A number of top European soccer clubs, including England’s Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United Manchester United, and Spain’s Real Madrid, eagerly hoped for the opportunity to snag these star players.

Impact

On July 14, a sports tribunal announced a verdict that was not as severe as expected, perhaps because Italy defeated France in the World Cup final earlier in the week, thereby sending the entire nation of Italy into euphoria. The sentences fell short of what the prosecutor had sought, yet the fall of Juventus still struck Italy as the collapse of a monarchy.

The tribunal demoted Juventus from Serie A to Serie B for its role in the game-fixing scandal. The club also was docked 30 points, the equivalent of ten losses, which made it very difficult for the team to advance to the championship and move back to Serie A. Juventus also lost the championships it had won in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Fiorentina and Lazio also were demoted to Serie B and penalized 12 and 7 points, respectively. AC Milan remained in Serie A but lost 15 points. Moggi and Giraudo received five-year suspensions and fines. The vice president of AC Milan received a one-year ban from the game, and the president and honorary president of Fiorentina were suspended for several years. Lazio’s president was banned for three and one-half years. Several referees were suspended.

The teams had three days to appeal the court’s decision. With the verdict upheld, Juventus, AC Milan, and Fiorentina would be barred from the Champions League and Lazio would be banned from the UEFA Cup. Milan appealed and had its penalty reduced to 8 points, while keeping its Champions League participation. Milan won the competition in 2006-2007. The other teams also had their punishments reduced. On appeal, Fiorentina won reinstatement to Serie A, with a 15-point penalty. Lazio also remained in Serie A, with a 3-point reduction and a retroactive 30-point deduction that cost them qualification for the UEFA Cup. Juventus played in Serie B in the 2007-2008 season for the first time in the club’s history. The team sold many of its players. Soccer;game fixing Moggi, Luciano Giraudo, Antonio Berlusconi, Silvio Juventus soccer club Milan soccer club Italian Football Federation

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Agnew, Paddy. Forza Italia: A Journey in Search of Italy and Its Football. London: Ebury Press, 2006. An introduction to Italian soccer that makes the case that corruption is endemic to the sport. Includes coverage of several scandals that occurred prior to the Serie A scandal in 2006.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Foot, John. Winning at All Costs: The Untold Story of Triumph, Tragedy, and Corruption in Italian Soccer. New York: Nation Books, 2007. A general history of Italian soccer dating back to its northern Italian roots during the 1890’s. Examines the effects of corruption on the sport.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Goldblatt, David. The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008. Extensive history of soccer that places the sport in its international context. Includes discussion of the 2006 Italian scandal.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Vialli, Gianluca, and Gabriele Marcotti. The Italian Job: A Journey to the Heart of Two Great Footballing Cultures. London: Bantam, 2006. Examines the differences between Italian and English soccer fans, arguably the most passionate soccer fans in the world.

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