Calciopoli Still Haunts Juventus Nine Years Later

Colin O'Brien@@ColliOBrienContributor IMarch 27, 2015

Luciano Moggi arrives at the ''Camera di Conciliazione'' at CONI headquarters in Rome Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006. Italian soccer tries to clean up its image following a wide-ranging scandal involving match-fixing, illegal betting and the manipulation of refereeing appointments. (AP Photo/Giuseppe Calzuola)
GIUSEPPE CALZUOLA/Associated Press

Nine years on from the biggest scandal in Italian football history and the murk of Calciopoli still looms large over Juventus and Serie A. 

Due to the statute of limitations expiring on the case, former Juve executives Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo will no longer face prison terms for their roles in the affair. But they haven't been cleared of wrongdoing either, so the announcement has only served to drag up old dirt.

The accusations at the heart of Calciopoli were that Moggi and Giraudo built an extensive network of contacts within Italian football so that they could affect refereeing assignments in Serie A. That allowed them to influence fixtures throughout the league and arrange for key players from their main rivals to be booked or suspended around the time they faced the Bianconeri. 

Both men deny any wrongdoing, but Moggi was initially sentenced to more than five years, which was reduced on appeal, and Giraudo faced a 36-month sentence. The Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC) extended their five-year bans from football to a life expulsion in 2011.

The latest ruling in Italy's court of cassation upheld prosecutor Gabriele Mazzotta’s recommendation that the sentences be eliminated due to the statute of limitations. The former Italian football federation vice-president Innocenzo Mazzini and the league's former referee designator Pierluigi Pairetto also had their prison terms eliminated, and Paolo Bertini and Antonio Dattilo, both ex-referees, were acquitted. It's important to note that Mazzini, Pairetto, Moggi and Giraudo were not acquitted. They were simply let off. And therein lays the problem. 

Almost a decade on from Calciopoli, Italian football has been denied the closure that it deserves—and that it needs to move on. The debate around the scandal remains a very partisan, parochial affair, and it's become a popular rod with which to beat Juventus, but the truth is that Italian football as a whole must shoulder some blame for allowing criminal fraud on this scale to take place.

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The Bianconeri were punished for their involvement—they were stripped of the 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and relegated to the second division with a nine-point penalty—but other than banning Moggi from football activities, little else has been done to get to the root of the problem. Which leaves many to wonder if that kind of match-fixing is still going on today. 

The ruling has also resulted in fresh mud-slinging. The former FIGC President Franco Carraro recently came out with the sensational claim that the 1998 Scudetto was won unfairly by Juventus, too. Speaking to the Italian daily La Repubblica (here in English via Football-Italia.net), he said: 

My thoughts on Calciopoli are complex. 

Was there a shady network enveloping football? The judgements say yes, and we must stand by the judgements. 

Unlike what happened in ’98, Juventus had the strongest team in [winning] the two Leagues, and won on the field, not due to interference.

That said, there were many things that were not right. And in ’98? Please, that, for me, was the only championship which was really distorted in favour of Juventus, remember the penalty [not given] on Ronaldo?

Carraro was forced to quit as Federation president because of Calciopoli, but was later acquitted of any wrongdoing despite the fact that he was also overheard on wiretaps saying that referees should help Lazio avoid relegation.

In an interview with La Repubblica (here via Football-Italia), Moggi has claimed that he is willing to take his appeal to the European court. He told the paper: 

I feel innocent and indeed was not declared guilty. In nine years they have been totally unable to find proof of me colluding with a referee or anyone else. It’s ridiculous. The justice system took too long, it wasn’t us.

Calciopoli isn’t over and it won’t be over until they cancel my ban from football. I will demand money for all I’ve lost over these years. I’ll take this to the European Court.

[...]

The accusation of some vast conspiracy is laughable. Aside from Massimo De Santis, who was punished for a game that didn’t involve Juventus, all the referees were cleared. So who was I fixing the League with, exactly? It’s ridiculous.

The truth is the statute of limitations let the courts off the hook, not me. I don’t trust these people. I have a sentence in which a judge confirms in his ruling that the investigators manipulated recorded phone calls.

The 77-year-old also took the chance to fire a cheap shot at Inter, continuing his long-running spat with the Nerazzurri. "Inter didn’t win because they were incapable idiots," he said in the same interview, "I wasn’t the one who bought Vampeta, Taribo West and Hakan Sukur."

While everyone else had used the latest announcement as an excuse to go over old wounds, the current FIGC president, Carlo Tavecchio, tried to put a positive spin on the rulings, telling Italian news agency ANSA (h/t Football-Italia): “Notwithstanding the statute of limitations, the crimes were real and so was the criminal conspiracy."

The crimes were real, but the retribution hasn't been. Juventus were severely penalised, but other than making an empty example out of one of European football's great institutions, little has been done to get to the bottom of the problem. Real closure can only be achieved by really exposing and understanding the offences. And a decade on, that still hasn't happened.