GENEVA, Switzerland -- FIFA could ban World Cup champion Italy and all Italian clubs from international competition if Juventus challenges in state court the sanctions it received in the country's match-fixing scandal. FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said Wednesday that forcing a decision before a state court would interfere with the autonomy of the soccer world and undermine the sport's arbitration system.
In a letter sent by president Sepp Blatter to the Italian federation on Tuesday, FIFA said it was prepared to ban all Italian clubs -- as well as the national team -- from international soccer if Juventus goes ahead with its legal action.
"The president referred the Italian federation to Article 61, which states that the decisions of sports courts may not be brought before an administrative court. It also stipulates that national federations must have such an article within their statute books," FIFA said.
Juventus announced after a board meeting Monday that it planned to appeal to an administrative court in Rome, although it has not formally taken such a step.
"If Juventus go before an administrative court, then FIFA pass the matter to its emergency committee," Herren said. "The committee wouldn't even have to meet in person. It [the suspension of all Italian teams] could happen very quickly."
A suspension, if it were imposed, would be indefinite and could stop the national team from taking part in the qualifying competition for the 2008 European Championship.
Herren said that in an "ideal situation, the Italian federation will solve this problem within its own sports courts."
Juventus indicated no change in its plans.
"We're convinced we're not doing anything wrong, because we're simply applying a law of the Italian state," Juventus lawyer Riccardo Montanaro was quoted by the ANSA news agency.
A ruling on July 14 stripped Juventus of its last two Serie A titles and relegated the Torino powerhouse to the second division. A sports appeals court on July 25 reduced Juve's point penalty from 30 to 17.
The club argues that the punishment it received was unduly harsh, and that it lost millions as a result.
Three other Italian clubs involved in the match-fixing scandal received point penalties, but were not relegated.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press