Will Moggi be patsy in Juventus appeal?

July 19, 2006

ROME, July 19 (Reuters) - The lawyer defending Juventus in Italy's Serie A match-fixing scandal said on Wednesday the club's appeal against relegation would be based on their belief the punishment was not justified.

In a document published on La Gazzetta dello Sport's website, replying to questions from a Juventus fan, Cesare Zaccone outlined how the club intended to appeal against the guilty verdict handed down by a sports tribunal last week.

Juventus were sent down to the second-tier Serie B with a 30-point penalty and the loss of the Serie A titles it won in the 2004/05 and 2005/06 seasons.

Zaccone said Juventus could not be held directly responsible for the actions of its former general manager Luciano Moggi and argued that the punishments were 'not compatible with only one case of sporting fraud -- and which we are contesting.'

The scandal broke in early May when newspapers published intercepted telephone conversations between Moggi and senior officials at the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), discussing refereeing appointments during the 2004/05 season.

Zaccone also criticized the tribunal's decision to strip Juventus of the Serie A title they won the following season -- a period in which there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

'Why the sanction -- which has no justification at all or reason -- of being stripped of the 2005/06 Serie A title, in relation to which there does not exist any proof of irregularity?' said Zaccone, pointing out that all the phone taps dated from 2004/05.

'And why add to the already very heavy sanction of being stripped of the 2004/05 title by relegating the club to Serie B with a points penalty which is equivalent, in substance, to relegation to Serie C (Italy's third division)?'

Juventus were one of four top Italian clubs found guilty by the sports tribunal last Friday of conspiring with officials to try to rig games during the 2004/05 season.

Fiorentina and Lazio were also relegated to Serie B but with lighter points penalties than Juventus. AC Milan escaped relegation, but were thrown out of next season's Champions League and ordered to start their next Serie A campaign on minus 15 points.

All four clubs have said they will appeal against the verdicts.

The appeals process is scheduled to start on Saturday at Rome's luxurious Hotel Parco dei Principi.

The appeals court is expected to move faster than the first tribunal, which took 15 days to reach its verdicts, but it will be hard-pushed to complete its work by July 25. That deadline has been set by UEFA for the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) to submit their list of teams for next season's Champions League and UEFA Cup competitions.

Should the appeals process remains unfinished on July 25, the FIGC commissioner Guido Rossi has said Italy's list to UEFA would reflect the verdicts of the first sports tribunal.

In that case, Juventus, Milan and Fiorentina would lose their places in the Champions League and make way for AS Roma, Chievo Verona and Palermo.