Fiorentina, Lazio back in Serie A

July 25, 2006

ROME -- A sports court allowed Fiorentina and Lazio to rejoin Italy's top soccer division and reduced the points penalty against Juventus in Serie B after successful appeals Tuesday in a match-fixing scandal.

Juventus' penalty was cut from 30 points to 17. Fiorentina will have 19 points docked next season, while Lazio will be deducted 11.

The court also cut AC Milan's points penalty in Serie A from 15 to 8.

A July 14 ruling stripping Juventus of its last two Serie A titles was upheld, though Milan will be allowed to play in the Champions League preliminary rounds this season.

Also upheld were five-year bans for former Juventus executives Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo, figures at the center 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. Minutes later, they scattered when a sudden thunderstorm drenched them.

The ruling ended 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 Aug. 28.

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

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

If upheld or unchallenged, the demotion would be a first for Juventus since its inception in 1897. The Turin-based powerhouse has won 29 league titles -- including the ones stripped Friday -- 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 earlier ruling, Fiorentina was sent down to Serie B and given a 12-point penalty to start next season, while Lazio was originally supposed to start the new season in Serie B with a seven-point penalty.

Each club appealed.

Juventus claimed the sanctions were excessive, and AC Milan argued that its Champions League ban was unlawful.

Soccer federation prosecutor Stefano Palazzi had argued for even tougher punishment. Palazzi called for Juventus to be demoted to Serie C. He also wanted Serie B demotions for Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio with point deductions.

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

The stiffest penalties for officials were given to Moggi and Giraudo. The appeals tribunal confirmed the initial court's recommendation that asked the Italian soccer federation to ban them 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 and had originally received a 4½-year ban, was given 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 was banned for 2½ years, a year less than in the initial sentence. Milan vice president Adriano Galliani received a nine-month ban, instead of one year.

Meanwhile, UEFA gave the Italian federation until Wednesday -- one extra day -- to decide which clubs were eligible to play in European club competitions this coming season.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press