News 20th May 2015

More than 50 arrested on suspicion of match-fixing in Italian football

Italian police have arrested more than 50 people on suspicion of match-fixing in Italian football, according to local reports. The arrests come following an extensive investigation by anti-mafia prosecutors in the southern town of Catanzaro, the capital of the southern Italian region of Calabria. A further 70 people are also under investigation as part of the widespread match-fixing inquiry.

Renato Cortese, Director of the Central Operational Service (SCO) of the Italian police, an anti-mafia police unit, told local media that some of those charged had links to mafia organisations and ‘dangerous characters’, with the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate believed to be behind some of the match-fixing. Those arrested are suspected of conspiracy to commit sporting fraud, said local reports. The Chief Prosecutor of Catanzaro, Vincenzo Lombardo, told local media that they had uncovered an alleged match-fixing network between club Presidents, coaches, players, and some management members in more than 30 clubs. The investigation is understood to involve dozens of fixed matches in Italian football’s third and fourth division, but Lombardo said that those involved had been plotting to extend the fixes to Serie B, the second tier of Italian football, and bigger matches.

Reuters reported that the investigation began when police tapped the telephone of a member of the Iannazzo mob family in Calabria, discovering that he was arranging matches in order to make money by betting on them. The match-fixing network is alleged to have ties outside Italy in Serbia, Slovenia, Malta, Turkey and Kazakhstan.

Damiano Tommasi, the President of the Italian Footballers’ Association (AIC), confirmed to the SSI that he had told local media that the match-fixing scandal was a ‘problem bigger than football’ and that ‘football was better than the scandal’. Tommasi said that match-fixing in the world of amateur football was a risk, because there are more than 160 teams and the matches are not televised, so they are difficult to control. He said that the football world was alluring to those pursuing criminal acts, and that there needed to be ‘clarity’ as soon as possible.

The President of the Italian football association (FIGC), said in a statement that football was the victim of such scandals. He said that the FIGC had invested heavily in projects of integrity in relation to sports betting and that they could now use this match-fixing case to establish a comprehensive database to monitor the movements of those involved in match-fixing, and ensure those involved in regulated betting could continue to do so freely.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that Catanzaro Prosecutor Elio Romano, writing in the decree which outlined the match-fixing inquiry entitled ‘Dirty Soccer’, had labelled the match-fixing case a ‘new crime novel’, whose actors were causing economic damage and making a mockery of the passions of those who follow football. He wrote that the case was a pathological consequence of the decline of the old guard within football, arguing that Italy needed a radical reform of its current match-fixing legislation.

Renzo Ulivieri, President of the Italian Coaches Association, reportedly said that it was probable that in situations like this there needed to be better control of the leagues and more checks required, and that if this was the situation, Italian football was facing an absolute emergency. According to ANSA, Italy’s federal prosecutor Stefano Palazzi has now contacted the Anti-Mafia District Directorate (DDA) in Catanzaro for further information on the investigation.

Reuters reported that Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said in a radio interview earlier today that he was embarrassed and disgusted by the latest match-fixing scandal to hit Italian football and called for sweeping changes to clean up the game and attract families to stadiums. He said Italy should follow the example of Britain, Germany and Spain, which have largely rooted out fan violence and invested in high quality stadiums to make them more attractive to families.

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