Italy's Match-Fixing Scandal: 5 Things You Need to Know

Mohamed Al-Hendy@Mo_HendyCorrespondent IJune 4, 2012

Italy's Match-Fixing Scandal: 5 Things You Need to Know

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    It seems Italian football just can't rid itself of match-fixing scandals. Just six years on from the infamous Calciopoli—the scandal which got Juventus relegated to Serie B—Italy is once again mired in another match-fixing scandal, this time dubbed Scommessopoli.

    Frustration with the scandal has already lead Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to suggest that football should be halted for two or three years to weed out all match-fixing, while national team coach Cesare Prandelli has stated that he would be okay with Italy's withdrawal from Euro 2012 if it was for "the good of football."

    What exactly is Scommessopoli, and what can we expect this time around for Italy and Italian football? Let's see.

Phase One: Betting-Gate

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    Scommessopoli roughly translates to "Betting-Gate," which comes pretty close to summing up what this scandal is about.

    The scandal began in June 2011, when a number of Italian footballers—including three-time Serie A top-scorer Giuseppe Signori—were arrested for alleged match-fixing to fix bets

    For the most part, the scandal never received major press coverage outside of Italy during this first phase due to the fact that it dealt mostly with Serie B and C clubs, and as such lacked many high-profile names.

    The most recognizable name aside from Signori was Cristiano Doni of Atalanta, who was banned from football for three-and-a-half years in August for his involvement in the scandal, prematurely ending the long-serving Atalanta captain's career.

    The punishments handed out for this first phase of the investigation were relatively mild on the club level; Atalanta, the only Serie A club involved, received a six-point deduction for the 2011-12 season.

    Almost 20 players received bans from football, ranging from one to five years.

Phase Two

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    Four months passed with everyone believing that the match-fixing scandal was over and done with, but on December 19th, 2011, the Italian police made a wave of arrests in relation to the scandal.

    Just a few months after being banned from football, Doni was arrested this time as a precaution to prevent him tampering with evidence.

    The prosecutor for the scandal, Roberto Di Martino, claimed that the scandal was not limited to just Italy:

    Let's hope it's a starting point in cleaning up the beautiful game that is football. One of the suspects has admitted that these operations have been going on for over 10 years.

    At the top of the organization are men from Singapore, who are those who move the money, but the shareholders are divided from the West, to the Far East, to South America and they manage with their men how to change the outcome of football matches.

    Simone Farina, pictured left, was awarded by Sepp Blatter for his honesty in reporting the continued existence of match-fixing. Farina was approached by ex-teammate Alessandro Zamperini and was offered €200,000 to fix a Coppa Italia match between Cesena and Gubbio.

Phase Three

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    The investigation and arrests of numerous high-profile players and managers are what finally caused Scommessopoli to garner global attention.

    On May 28th, 2012, the Italian police initiated another wave of arrests. Among those arrested were Lazio captain Stefano Mauri (pictured left) and Genoa ex-captain Omar Milanetto.

    Furthermore, Juventus manager Antonio Conte was placed under investigation for his alleged involvement in match-fixing while managing Siena, along with Kakha Kaladze, Genoa striker Giuseppe Sculli, Chievo captain Sergio Pellissier and Italian international Domenico Criscito.

    Domenico Criscito's investigation lead to Prandelli dropping him from the Italian national team, a decision which Criscito was not pleased with:

    I was left shocked on Monday morning. I would never have expected anything of the sort, never having done anything bad in my life. Leaving me out of the 23 for the Euros on the last day made it seem as if I was considered the face of the scandal. If they'd thought about it a bit more, it would have been obvious I had nothing to do with it.

    If I was the FIGC, I would have read the order. I'm angry and upset, I can't stand being made out to be a scapegoat. A day before going to the Euros I suffered a great injustice. I've worked a lifetime to get to this stage and gave everything I had this year so as not to lose out.

    When (Prandelli) talked to me I was clearly very upset. After a few hours, however, I was fully calm again and nothing would have shaken me if I was called up.

    I wouldn't have been questioned shortly afterwards. If I would have gone to Poland, I would have agreed that I would appear in court when I got back. Even the prosecutor said that there wasn't anything to stop me going to the European Championship. The notice that I'm under investigation doesn't mean that I'm guilty. But the fact I'm not in the squad can be interpreted as a judgment of guilt.

    Prandelli's reasoning for leaving him him out was that Criscito would be feeling "a pressure that no human being can deal with," and could have been called up by prosecutors at any time.

Leonardo Bonucci vs. Domenico Criscito

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    Immediately after Criscito's dismissal from the Italian national team, and with Bonucci also allegedly being investigated for his involvement in the scandal, many questioned Prandelli's decision to keep Bonucci in the national team squad, particularly Criscito's agent:

    Bonucci, who is being investigated, will join the squad for the European Championships, so Criscito should have fallen into consideration for Prandelli.

    My client is sorry, he is regretful but very calm because he has committed no offence. He had to give up a place at the Euros only because he was photographed.

    It was during another investigation into drugs where this person was followed and then pictured with Criscito.

    If I was Prandelli I’d take him to the Euros, because the notice of investigation does not amount to guilt and because the boy has guaranteed that he has done nothing. If the Coach believed him, then he would bring him.

    There are no wiretaps, no testimonials and it is all based on a photograph. I think it is unfair that he cannot participate in the European Championships.

    When they decided to send Criscito home that was tantamount to saying the boy is guilty. Right now, caution is needed because today the process is carried out in the media, before even entering the courtroom.

    It is true that it was necessary to protect the national team, but the boy must also be protected.

    Prandelli's response was short and simple:

    The most annoying thing is that some people have linked Bonucci’s issue with that of Criscito. I reiterate that Bonucci has not received any type of notification from the prosecutors’ office. This is why he will come with us to the European Championship.

Updates on Major Players

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    Omar Milanetto (pictured left) has received support from ex-teammate Mauro Boselli, who does not believe that Milanetto engaged in match-fixing while the pair played together, and his lawyer believes his innocence has been proven following questioning on May 30th.

    Meanwhile, Stefano Mauri's lawyer has said the Stefano Mauri "can't wait to be interviewed" about his role in the scandal. He claims that Mauri has uncovered many holes in the evidence against him, and expects that Mauri will be able to clear his name in due time.

    Lazio have stood by their captain, releasing a statement stating that they expect Mauri to be able to "prove his innocence" when interviewed.

    Sabotage Times have put together an excellent piece on what exactly the biggest names in the scandal are under investigation for. I will say this, though: As of now, Giuseppe Sculli looks to be the guiltiest of all those under investigation or arrested.

    Due to the recentness of the arrests, not much is yet known about how deep this scandal extends, and what exactly the role of groups from Hungary and Singapore was in fixing Italian football matches.

    As with Calciopoli six years ago, it seems Serie A fans are in for another summer of trials on, and investigations into, the corruption that continues to haunt Italian football.