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Italy aren't punishing clubs enough for match fixing

Other nations now under scrutiny

icon italyfix11 February ~ The revelation by Europol, the EU's law enforcement arm, of the extent of match-fixing in football worldwide was shocking but it shouldn't surprise anybody. Ever since I first realised that something was wrong during the now infamous Serie B match between AlbinoLeffe and Piacenza in December 2010, it has seemed obvious that it could not be just an Italian problem. It's scant consolation to those who follow Italian football that we now know that we are in good (or bad) company when it comes to corruption in football, but at least it makes us feel less alone.

Declan Hill, author of The Fix: Soccer And Organized Crime, reacted by saying that while corruption and cheating have existed in sport back to the days of the ancient Olympics, we are currently faced with unprecedented dangers which could kill some sports as we know them. Online gambling means that you can now bet on sporting events anywhere in the world from almost anywhere in the world at any time of the day or night. Ten years ago that was not possible.

Hill added that the corruption of European football is moving inexorably westwards. If it has not already done so, it could soon be knocking at the door of Britain. If it does strike, it is less likely to do so in the Premier League, whose high profile probably carries too many risks. It is to be hoped that the authorities will avoid the complacency of Chris Coleman, who has pronounced himself convinced that British football is totally clean following his experiences with Real Sociedad and Larissa.

Meanwhile in Italy the "Last Bet" investigation drags inexorably on. Recently the scene has been dominated by shows of leniency which do not bode well. Napoli were given back two points and two players. To ensure that it did not look as though a big club was receiving favourable treatment, smaller clubs also received points back, including Padova and Portogruaro, and some players had their suspensions lifted or reduced.

In all this story the case of AlbinoLeffe is emblematic. In June they faced a 27-point deduction for their part in nine fixed matches. This was reduced to 15 at the first hearing, then to nine on appeal and finally with the second appeal to just five. With a point deducted for another misdemeanour, they have now lost six points instead of potentially 28, and stand a good chance of avoiding relegation from Lega Pro Prima Divisione (level three).

The justification is that they lost most of the fixed matches and so, as a club, were the victims. This ignores the fact that there was for each match at least one other victim, namely any team that would have benefited from them winning. I no longer support them regularly and have been to only two of their ten home league games. Such a lenient punishment for involvement in so many fixed matches sends out all the wrong messages.

We are also regularly told that it is unfair to punish clubs for the corrupt behaviour of their players on or off the pitch. However, it is surely not unreasonable to hold clubs responsible for anything that is football-related. They do, after all, more or less own their players, and AlbinoLeffe in particular have developed a habit in recent years of making players who refuse to sign a new contract unavailable for selection. They surely cannot have it both ways.

Since in the end all this is about gambling, surely it is time that advertising of betting companies was banned, at least within the game. To see a practice that could destroy the game sponsoring Serie B and the Conference and emblazoned on the shirts of some of its major protagonists shows how blind some of those who run it are to the danger it is in. Geoff Bradford

On the subject...

Comment on 12-02-2013 03:45:17 by Broon #761385
totally agree. everything seems to be either swept under the carpet or, if it is exposed, justified and fought so much that the punishments are rendered meaningless. it would be laughable if it wasn't so depressing.
Comment on 12-02-2013 08:08:08 by geobra #761404
Another club, Empoli, got a point back yesterday. The more cynical among us think that the change in tack is due to the involvement of important clubs or personalities associated with them. Once Juventus coach Antonio Conte had had his suspension reduced from 10 months to four and their player Leonardo Bonucci was acquitted, the authorities were forced to show leniency to everybody else. It follows that we are not hopeful that Lazio and their captain Stefano Mauri will be punished for their alleged involvement in two suspect matches in 2011.

If I were the chief prosecutor of the FIGC Stefano Palazzi, I would resign. He has made mistakes, but he is trying to clean up his game. He seems to be wasting his time as cleverer lawyers than he find ways of getting their clients off despite strong evidence that they are guilty.

The fans are silently voting with their feet, as the depressing pictures of ever emptier Serie A stadiums show. Even TV cannot hide the facts, especially when the cameras sre located in the more populated part of the stadium. Balotelli's debut for Milan drew just 35000 to the 80000 capacity San Siro.
Comment on 12-02-2013 10:56:59 by geobra #761447
'trying to clean up the game'
Comment on 12-02-2013 13:39:18 by geobra #761525
Today I read Sepp Blatter's reaction to the Europol revelations:

'We are in a game and in a game there are always cheats. The cheats will never be stopped'.

Imagine a police chief saying something similar about crime. There would be an outcry.

Now if Sepp had said 'We will never stop all the cheats, but we will do our utmost to stop as many as possible and frighten the rest'. But he didn't.

With this man at the head of football, what hope is there?

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