20 December ~ Yesterday morning's TV bulletins led with the news of 17 arrests in the Italian betting scandal that broke last June. They include Cristiano Doni of Atalanta and Carlo Gervasoni of Piacenza, both already suspended as a result of the original investigation, but also some new names. They are Luigi Sartor who played for Juventus, Parma, Inter and Roma; Filippo Carobbio once of AlbinoLeffe, Reggina, Genoa and Siena, and now with Spezia in Prima Divisione; and the previously unknown Alessandro Zamperini of Ventspils in Latvia, who also had brief spells at West Ham and Portsmouth. There are also a number of new games involved, including at least three from last season's Serie A.

One person involved has said match-fixing has been going on for the last ten years. Doni is accused of trying to tamper with evidence. It is alleged that he communicated with his associates using a mobile phone registered in the name of a Romanian to avoid detection. This could explain why his name never appeared in any of the recorded conversations.

He is said to have paid part of the bills of the lawyer of one of the defendants, Nicola Santoni, in order that he would "keep quiet" when questioned about his relationship with Doni. It is also claimed he tried to doctor data Santoni's iPhone. When the police arrived to arrest him at dawn, he attempted to escape in his pyjamas.

The judge leading the investigation, Roberto di Martino, has said this is only the beginning. Doni and the rest are accused of being part of a criminal organisation with headquarters in Singapore and its European operational base in some of the countries of the former Soviet bloc, but with tentacles reaching into Western Europe, South America and Africa.

The organisation's aim was to fix the results of matches and defraud the public. Di Martino said no country can consider itself immune. The head of the Italian football justice system is waiting for the documentation before initiating a second sporting "trial" that could have dire consequences for some clubs, primarily Atalanta.

It has been pointed out, though, that the criminal justice system is always the first to act in these cases and never the sport involved. It is as though the sporting authorities, who must know or suspect something, would nevertheless prefer everything to be hushed up.

Some have criticised the timing of the arrests, but the judicial authorities would probably reply that it is their job to act when they are sure they have the evidence, and that they cannot be influenced by the fact it is the festive season. Perhaps the investigators assume the suspects will be more likely to talk if they think they could be in prison for Christmas.

It is a year since I was alerted by the suspicious nature of the now notorious AlbinoLeffe v Piacenza Serie B game. In the past 12 months it has become clear that football is now facing the deadliest threat in its history in the form of multifarious ways of gambling on matches. On one hand they are legal, but on the other hand they open to all kinds of corruption that are difficult if not impossible to control.

Any lover of football who does not recognise the extreme gravity of the situation has their head buried in the sand. As for FIFA and the various continental federations, the time for talk is over. We need action and we need it now. Geoff Bradford

Comments (15)
Comment by Efficient Baxter 2011-12-20 11:24:01

"It has been pointed out, though, that the criminal justice system is always the first to act in these cases and never the sport involved. It is as though the sporting authorities, who must know or suspect something, would nevertheless prefer everything to be hushed up."

In fairness to the Italian Football Federation, they did their bit on this back in August

Comment by reddybrek 2011-12-20 13:11:39

Is it not the case that Italian football has a notorius history for this kind of thing? There seems to be a significant consensus in Italy that criminality is a way of life and not just confined to fixing football matches.

Berlusconi has been a puppet of the mafia centrally controlling AC Milan, tv and politics in the mother of all confilcts of interest.

Perhaps a tad dramatic to assume that this is widespread on this scale throughout the rest of Europe although its safe to say small time fixing probably happens everywhere. Italy remains the worst offender surely? Its slso incredibly optimistic to assume FIFA are even slightly inclined to remove corruption from football these are their kind of people.

Comment by supercleancarpets 2011-12-20 13:59:56

can't believe they keep getting away with this sort of thing if it was england you can bet we'd be thrown out of the lot.

Carpet cleaning Walsall

Comment by supercleancarpets 2011-12-20 14:01:52

can't believe they keep getting away with this sort of thing if it was england you can bet we'd be thrown out of the lot.

Comment by Coral 2011-12-20 15:55:56

"There seems to be a significant consensus in Italy that criminality is a way of life" Is the same thoroughly researched and factually backed argument the BNP trot out when talking about immigrants in MY country?

Comment by Bruno 2011-12-20 16:28:59

"There seems to be a significant consensus in Italy that criminality is a way of life"

Contingent, not consensus.

Comment by geobra 2011-12-20 18:11:36

@ Coral

Thank you. I've got lots of Italian friends, and as far as I know none of them is a criminal.

@ Efficient Baxter

The Italian FA acted in August only after the Cremona investigation revealed the seriousness of the problem.

@ reddybrek

First recorded case of match-fixing in England - 1915 Liverpool v Manchester United. In Italy - 1927.

But you're right of course that Italy has form in this field. However, I don't think anybody should be complacent. Don't forget those two premiership goalkeepers in the 90s. Or the big scandal in 1964 involving Peter Swan and others.

What makes this more serious than previous Italian scandals is that it has international ramifications which previously scandals didn't have. It'a part of something that goes way beyond Italy, and to write it off as 'typically Italian' is a mistake.

For those who are interested today's developments include:

Doni lied in the previous enquiry when he said he didn't have a PC and had ended all contact with Santoni, so it doesn't look good for him.

A courageous Gubbio player, Simone Farina, reported an attempt to get him to throw a cup game with Cesena, and this gave the investigators the lead they needed. The fact that the player who tried to bribe him, Zamperini, did so openly speaks volumes.

A lot of the new information came from a Singapore citizen arrested and interrogated in Finland who decided to spill the beans.

It looks as though the syndicate were, for some reason, very interested in fixing the results of AlbinoLeffe's games in 2008. And 5 of those either arrested or under investigation, Carobbio, Gervasoni, defender Kewullah Conteh from Sierra Leone, Brazilian striker Joelsen and goalkeeper Paolo Acerbis were playing for AlbinoLeffe then or had played for them.

Comment by geobra 2011-12-20 21:17:13

@ reddybrek

What is 'small time fixing'? For me there is no such thing. Is there a moral difference between fixing a game in the Premiership or in the Ryman League? I don't think so. A fixed 'match' is a contradiction anyway because it isn't a match any more.

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2011-12-21 10:32:52

It doesn't really matter if Italy has form in this or not; match fixing could be a problem anywhere, and it would be absurd for any league to ignore it on the basis that 'it doesn't happen here'.

Slightly dirty carpet in Newcastle

Comment by geobra 2011-12-21 13:30:29

Agreed, but it would be idle to pretend that if you say 'match-fixing' England comes to mind before Italy. Whether this is because England is better at hiding it or, more likely, because it doesn't happen so often is for others to judge.

We are told that there are now 22 'suspect' Serie A games from last season, with only Inter, Milan and Juventus not involved. As they are also 'the big three' this could also be seen as slightly suspect.

If they have 'found' 22 suspect games, who knows how many they haven't found?

The picture that is emerging is almost unimaginably bleak. It's one of players with no scruples, no ethics, no moral dimension and absolutely no respect for the game, the clubs they play for and the fans who cheer them on. In fact we probably shouldn't even call them players. They are criminals of the worst kind.

Perhaps it will teach us gullible fans that players should not be idolised. They should be respected if they do their job properly, and it should stop there.

Comment by Broon 2011-12-21 14:35:08

I think it would be very naive to think that the richest league in the world, the league that is easily the most popular in SE Asia where a lot of illegal gambling takes place (no surprise there is a Singapore connection here), would be immune from similar problems. Money attracts corruption. I think the Italians should be applauded for successfully detecting these illegalities.

I am also not suprised to notice that Harry Redknapp signed one of these guys, twice.

Comment by geobra 2011-12-21 14:50:19

As I have already said to Coral, thank you. It's time somebody gave the Italian judicial authorities a pat on the back. They have worked quietly and painstakingly for months gathering evidence, and if, (a big if, I know)when this is all over, the Italian game has been cleaned up, they'll be heroes. And Italy should concentrate on its own clean-up before pointing the finger elsewhere.

This evening I'm going to see Atalanta v Cesena. The result doesn't interest me much,as I think the team is bound to be in Serie B next season (if they're lucky), but the atmosphere and the reaction of the fans do. If there are demonstrations in favour of Doni, it will mean that the fans have learnt and understood nothing, and also that they are completely incapable of objectivity. Because if he played for deadly rivals Brescia............

Comment by reddybrek 2011-12-21 16:44:31

Apologies I meant contigent – consensus is plain wrong – I take that back if I may
Perhaps you should thoroughly research the similarities between the likes Hitler, Franco, Mussolinis & Berlusconis contribution to the politics media and football before aligning my views with the BNP though.
I’m fully aware of the match fix between Utd and Liverpool. However it was a few players making a few quid on the side at a time when footballers earnt nothing. No escuse of course but not like modern day Italy where it’s a network of refs, players, fans, syndicates who snake through the whole game decade after decade.
I too have Italian friends who arent criminals who have openly admitted that they prefer the English game. Barely a week goes by without them accausing a referee or a player of taking a bung in the Italian league. This might explain why certain Italian football grounds have been deserted for the last 10 years.
As for the Italian police dong such a steller job- its like shooting fish in a barrel. Is so widespread that regulating it is rather like arresting cannabis users in the UK i.e. a complete farce

Comment by geobra 2011-12-21 17:17:36


If someone says that in Italy criminality is a big problem, especially the organised variety, I'd agree wholeheartedly. But it's not a 'way of life'. I didn't make the comment about the BNP, but I think it was just meant to point out that it is dangerous to stereotype.

When I said that Italy has 'form' with regard to match-fixing, I was essentially agreeing with you. Until somebody provides evidence to the contrary, I'd never say that the problem is as yet of the same dimensions in England. But neither would I say that it doesn't exist.

In the land of 'omertà' I wouldn't underestimate the work of the Cremona investigating team.

Comment by geobra 2011-12-22 15:02:17

For anyone who's interested, Atalanta's game with Cesena last night passed off without incident. The crowd behaved impeccably and there were no chants either for or against Doni. It would seem that in the eyes of the fans he's now history and I doubt that he'll ever dare to set foot in the stadium again. Despite the pressure they were under, the team played very well in a 4-1 win. I hope that this game at least was free of any suspicion!!

But in more general terms football is going to have to accept that strange results and bad mistakes are going to raise eyebrows for a long time even if the current investigation brings about some kind of a purge. Once trust is lost, it's very hard to regain.

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