Italy scandal judge defends appeal decisions

July 26, 2006

Appeals court judge Piero Sandulli defended the verdicts in the Italian match-fixing case which have seen Fiorentina and Lazio reinstated to Serie A and Juventus have their points penalty reduced to the extent that they can realistically aspire to promotion back to Serie A at the first time of asking.

Juventus remain in Serie B but have had their 30-point deduction trimmed to 17 points which gives them a chance of regaining top-flight status under new coach Didier Deschamps next season.

AC Milan will have an eight-point deduction in Serie A next season but can compete in the Champions League preliminaries.

The biggest winners were Lazio and Fiorentina who were relegated to Serie B in the original verdicts earlier in July but now are reinstated to Serie A although they will start the seasons with 11 and 19-point deductions respectively.

Sandulli announced the verdicts on Tuesday evening in a Roman hotel but will give his reasons for reducing the penalties later and cautioned critics not to question his decisions until examining his explanation.

Sandulli 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.'

Sandulli claimed that the verdicts would help restore the reputation of Italian football, claiming that that process had already started with Italy's World Cup win earlier this month.

'Football in any case emerges well from this also because it has regained credibility after winning the World Cup,' said the lawyer in remarks reported by www.gazzetta.it.

'I would even say that football has managed to repair itself. That's why I am saying football has emerged well from this.'

While there remains an avenue of appeal, the verdicts appear to draw the curtain on the scandal that came to public light towards the end of last season.

Taped phone calls made by former Juventus director Luciano Moggi, notably calls to the man responsible for appointing referees to matches, seemed to imply widespread corruption in the sport.

The appeals verdicts mean that only Juventus of the four clubs originally implicated will play in Serie B next season but the reduction of their points penalty means they too could realistically be back in the top flight next May.