Italian football is in turmoil after four clubs and a number of prominent individuals were sanctioned by a sports tribunal for their part in a match-fixing scandal.  The prosecutor in the sports tribunal, Stefano Palazzi, had accused the four, Juventus, Fiorentina, Lazio and AC Milan, of operating a "sophisticated" system aimed at unduly influencing referees and the outcome of games.

In the tribunal's ruling, Juventus were hardest hit – stripped of the Serie A titles they won in the past two seasons, forced to play three matches at a neutral venue, fined €120,000 (£85,000), relegated to Serie B and forced to start next season with a 30-point deduction.  Milan were stripped of 44 points from last season, dropping them out of the European qualification spots, and given a 15-point handicap for next.  Lazio and Fiorentina were sent down to Serie B, where they will enter the championship with minus-7 and minus-12 points respectively.  The Juventus general manager at the centre of the affair, Luciano Moggi, was excluded for five years and the former president of the Italian federation, Franco Carraro, was banned for 4½ years for failing to prevent this scandal. The judges also imposed a 2½-year ban on Pierluigi Pairetto, one of two officials responsible for allocating referees for Serie A matches.

On appeal, however the sanctions of the tribunal were reduced by the federal court.  Lazio and Fiorentina have been reinstated to Serie A, but Juventus remain in Serie B.  Fiorentina will now start the new season with a 19-point deduction, Lazio with an 11-point deficit.  Juventus remain in Serie B but have had their 30-point deduction reduced to 17.  AC Milan, who avoided relegation under the original verdict, have seen their 15-point penalty for next season reduced to eight.  However, the bans and censure of the individuals involved were not affected.  In a further twist, Milan were given an unexpected reprieve as a procedural technicality prevented UEFA from refusing their admission to the Champion's League this year.

Even given the leniency shown on appeal, Italian football faces a grim prospect.  It is likely that Juventus will not return to the top division before the 2007-2008 season.  The other three censured clubs are very unlikely to be competing in European football championships this year, given their points penalties, and for the next few seasons if they cannot afford to keep their teams together.  With Juventus and Milan being quoted companies, it is likely that the fall of these giants will have a much wider financial impact.  A lot of transfer activity is predicted as expensive players are moved out of these four teams to ensure the clubs are able to weather the next few seasons.  With five of the 2006 World Cup winning squad set to be playing in Serie B next season, and three clubs playing under points deductions in Serie A, Italian league football is likely to be a frustrating experience for fans and footballers alike for the foreseeable future.

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