The Recurrent History Of Match Fixing Scandals In Italy And How It Affected The Serie A

The history of the beautiful game has been tainted by several factors over the years. Match fixing scandals were undoubtedly the ones which had made the biggest of dents on the credibility of the sport. Although, it is somewhat expected that a sport which is amongst the most popular in the world involving a huge number of people ranging from the players, officials, coaches, support staff, directors, members, fans etc. will not have some shady characters who will not abide by the rules.

Football is a massive sport involving a turnover of billions and billions of dollars and it is no surprise that it will be targeted by people who are inclined to make more and more money by unfair means and manipulations. However, what is striking is that Italy, a country which has contributed massively to the history and development of the brand football all across the globe has been the ones who sit on the top of the table when it comes to match fixing as well. Over the years, Italian football has witnessed several incidents which affected the football in the country and its players.

The history of match fixing in Italy dates back to the 1960s when Angelo Moratti, who having amassed a fortune in the oil business became the president of Inter Milan in 1955. Inter Milan underwent a transformation in the year 1960 when Angelo Moratti appointed Argentine coach Helenio Herrera and entrusted him to make Inter a force not only in Italian football by coming out of the shadows of AC Milan, but also in Europe. With the presence of players like Luis Suarez (not the one you are thinking of and at the time the present European player of the year), Giacinto Facchetti, Armando Picchi and Sandro Mazzola, Inter won consecutive European cups (a feat which has not been repeated since then) the present equivalent of the Champions League in 1964 and 1965 defeating the likes of Real Madrid and Benfica.

A year later they won the intercontinental cup and became one of the greatest teams of the 1960’s. However, after a detailed research by veteran journalist Brian Glanville, who exposed the ‘behind the scenes’ story of this apparently great Inter side, stating how they fixed up the matches with the trio of Angelo Moratti (Inter’s President), Deszo Szolti (a notorious Hungarian match fixer) and Italo Allodi (Inter’s sporting director) orchestrating the chain of events. The European cup successes were thus found out to be results of bribery and corruption. Reports emerged on how Angelo Moratti put huge pressure on the Hungarian referee Gyorgy Vadas to fix up Inter’s European tie against Malaga and how he also manipulated the proceedings in the cup finals. Later ex Inter player Feruccio Mazzola who netted 116 goals in his 417 league appearences claimed that there was a systematic use of illegal and performance enhancing drugs at the club under Angelo Moratti.

Inter filed a case against Mazzola which he won in 2010 and Inter’s decision of not appealing against the verdict has actually served as the confirmation of Inter’s guilt to both the Italian media and sports lovers all over the globe. Angelo Moratti stepped down as Inter’s president in 1968 and later died in 1981. He thus never faced storm for what he had done and more importantly started the practice of Match fixing in Italy which unfortunately had a long black history culminating since then.

Next up was the Infamous Totonero affair which happened in 1980 and many claim this to be the first major shakeup in Italian football where the involvement of a syndicate which attempted to tamper with the matches of both SerieA and Serie B came to light. The Totonero, named after the illegal betting schemes in Italy was a scandal of such big proportions that it led to mass arrests leading even to the intervention of police to conduct arrests at the Olympic Stadium of Rome on live TV!

Ac Milan and Lazio were relegated to the Serie B and a total of 50 years of ban from football was handed out to the culprits with the clubs being docked a total of 25 points. The most notable culprit of this big scandal was Paolo Rossi who was handed a 3 year ban. Later the ban was reduced to 12 months allowing Rossi to take part in the 1982 world cup and he came out of the Tournament as the World Champion and top scorer.

The Calciopoli scandal which rocked Italian Football in 2006 was another instance where top Italian clubs, namely Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina were accused of rigging games by selecting favourable referees. The scandal was fully uncovered when the transcripts of the telephone conversations showcased the network of relations between the team managers and the referee organizations. Evidences were uncovered as to how Juventus’s Director of football Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo, Juventus’s chief executive of football  had conversations with the officials of Italian football to influence the appointments of the referees.

Moggi received a life ban from football while Giraudo was sentenced to a three year jail term along with a five year ban from football and a fine of €20,000. Juventus was stripped of their two league titles of 2005 and 2006 along with relegation to the Serie B and a 9 point deduction. Lazio, AC Milan, Reginna and Fiorentina were also handed with points deductions (3, 8, 11 and 15 points respectively) with Fiorentina ousted from the 2006-07 Champions League and Lazio thrown out of the 2006-07 UEFA Cup.

To this day prosecuters in Parma are still investigating big name players like Gianluigi Buffon and Enzo Maresca for suspected gambling on Serie A matches. Later developments also revealed the wiretappings seized by the police in Naples which established the link between AC Milan vice president Adriano Galliani, Inter President Massimo Moratti and then Inter chairman Giacinto Faccheti with the former referee designators in Paolo Bergamo and Pierluigi Pairetto. The two teams were however saved from any further actions from the court by the statute of limitation which covered the facts and led to the incidents non-confirmation.

On 2011 the next match fixing scandal broke out in Italy and this time it was even bigger. It involved a wide range of matches from Serie A,  Serie B, Liga Pro Prima Divisione and Liga Pro Seconda Divisione. This incident known as the Calcio Scommesse was the biggest match fixing scandal in Italian and perhaps in European football with no less than 23 clubs being guilty and suffering punishments. The Italian Police accounted for more than 100 arrests of several players and officials of the various clubs. Big name players and like Marko Di Vaio, Leonardo Bonucci were convicted on charges of non-denunciation of attempted match rigging along with high profile manager Antonio Conte, who was the manager of Siena at that time.

Even Paolo Rossi got caught up in the match fixing scandals.

The biggest names, those who were actually convicted of rigging matches and were subsequently arrested were notable players like Stefano Mauri ( Lazio vice captain), Omar Milanetto (ex Genoa captain), Cristiano Doni, Kakha Kaladze, Sergio Pellisier, Guissepe Sculli, Ivan Tisci and Dominico Criscito. Criscito was excluded from the national team roster for the Euro 2012 and the impact of the investigation which led to nearly a full closer was so great that Cesare Prandelli who was the current manager of the national team said that he would have no problem if Italy was barred from taking part in the Euro 2012 championships due to the scandal.

Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monty even suggested that football competition in Italy be suspended for at least two years! The Calcio Scommesse impacted the football in Italy on a massive scale and since then it has been even harder for the Serie A to grow in popularity and compete with the other top European Leagues and the poor showing of the Italian clubs in the UEFA club competitions has seen them lose some serious grounds on the UEFA coefficients for the clubs as well.

It was a fact that in the Later 80’s to the Early 90’s The Serie A was the highest grossing football league in the world. The Serie A of that time was dominated by several great players and people loved to watch the Italian League as it offered all the thrills for the football lovers from all across the globe. The breathtaking brilliance of Diego Maradona, the guile and consistency of Rudd Gulit, the unbelievable goal scoring ability of Van Basten, the almost perfect defending of Franco Baresi and the astronomical rise of the young Paolo Maldini were some of the things which captivated the imaginations of the footballing globe in that period.

The brilliance of Careca, Platini and Zico accounted for capacity crowds in the stadiums. Arigo Sacchi’s great Milan side, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Internazionale made the Calcio a breeding ground for the showcase of the most innovative strategies and formations while the fairytale rise and Scudetto win of Sampdoria in 1990-91 with the likes of Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini, Atillio Lombardo and goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca provided enough twists and suspenses for the neutrals. It then seemed like the Serie A will stay at the top for many years after coming out of the body blow dealt by the Totonero scandal. The World Cup triumph of 1982 certainly helped the cause along with the aforementioned reasons to Serie A to dominate Europe at that time. The late 90’s and the early 2000’s saw the rise of Lazio, Roma and Parma. Parma and Inter dominated the transfer markets with buying top players at world record fees.

Gianluigi Buffon, Christian Vieri and Hernan Crespo all moved from one club of Italy to another at world record sums. With the money remaining in the Serie A the further development of football and arrival of more quality players enhanced the League even further. Unfortunately in 2006 the Calciopoli scandal marked the beginning of the steady decline of the Serie A. Juventus saw a mass exodus of their star players and the level of corruption created a mental block for many foreign players who opted against moving to Italy to play club football. The South American players who previously prioritised the Serie A, shifted their aim towards Spain and England.

Even the World Cup win of 2006 was unable to change the scenario of domestic football in the Calcio as it did in the previous Totonero affair. The year 2009 was very significant as in that year Serie A lost two of their biggest superstars in Kaka and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The already declining state of the league lost its glamour and became partially handicapped while the Spanish League which bought the two superstar players indicated their superiority over the Serie A.

The plight of Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, the Bologna stadium.

The favourable tax laws in the other countries along with the highly controversial distribution of television rights are the two biggest things which has led to the decline of the domestic league in Italy along with the recurrent match fixing and corruption charges. The low matchday revenues account for the fact that most of the clubs in Serie A play in outdated stadiums with the exception of only Juventus.

The poor attendance affects the distribution of TV rights which has a clause of 30% distribution owing to the average home attendance and even the population of the city in which the club is based! (25% and 5% respectively). After the Calcio Scommesse in 2012, the Deloitte Sports Business Group published a report which alarmingly indicated a 3% decline, equivalent to 6m euros in the matchday revenues of Serie A clubs along with a 7% fall in the average league match attendances. Italian giants AC Milan and Inter Milan can only manage an attendance of 52.4% and 57.4% in their 79,343 capacity stadium according to reports in 2013-14.The data establishes the obvious fact that Serie A has been on a gradual decline and teams need to act before it’s too late.

Only Juventus can boast of better facilities as they filled nearly 95.9 percent of their stadium in their home matches distancing themselves quite a bit from the other clubs but the disparity with the other leagues was clear when one analysed the average player salaries in Juventus and in the other Italian clubs with the other clubs of Europe. Italian clubs spend £500 million less on wages compared to the clubs in England and Spain. While Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo nets a salary of over £200,000 per week and Wayne Rooney of England grabs a stunning £ 300,000 per week, Danielle De Rossi, Serie A’s highest earning player makes a mere £100,000 per week. Paul Pogba earns a mere £23,000 per week in Juventus despite being one of the most talented and coveted young midfielders in world football at the moment.

Recently concluded deals of transfer signings of three high profile players show how the Serie A is a considerable step down for international players in terms of their salaries when Fernando Torres went from £175,000 per week at Chelsea to £60,000 per week at AC Milan. Nemanja Vidic and Ashley Cole signed up for Inter Milan and AS Roma for £35,000 per week and £50,000 per week deals which are considerably lower than their previous salaries.

The lack of Title sponsors, Billionaire Owners, Controversial TV rights distribution process and low attendances accounting to lower matchday revenues are all reasons which are interconnected and are perhaps mostly driven or affected by the occurrence of the incidents of corruptions and match fixings in a country which has won no less than 4 World Cups.

The Serie A which was the place to be for players in the past and the league which enthralled the spectators from all over the globe has truly fallen off to a depth lower than ever and it is not a welcome sight for any sports fan. With the recent changes and developments in big clubs like AS Roma, Fiorentina and Napoli there is however a ray of hope that Italian football can recover again as it has done in the past but the answer to that question is something which remains to be seen and if that happens then the rise of Serie A from the depths of Darkness towards the limelight will certainly make for another very absorbing story to be told.

Guest blog from our colleagues at aliveforfootball.com

 

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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