Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Calciocaos - Apocalypse Monday

For those of you under the impression that the rest of football stops while the World Cup is on - think again. The calciocaos scandal is alive and well and heading to a bigger denouement than ever expected.

As reported earlier, Juventus are threatened with relegation beause of a match-fixing scandal which involved conspiring with the league to have favourable referrees assigned to its games. Juve's defense - such as it was - was that everyone else was doing it, too.

Well, the Italian Federation's prosecutors have this morning followed that logic to its conclusion and recommened that not only should Juventus be stripped of their last two titles and relegated (to Serie C1, no less!) and then given a six-point penalty, but that Lazio and Fiorentina and Milan (i.e. everybody else) should also be relegated to Serie B, along with penalties of fifteen, fifteen and six points respectively. And yes, a fifteen point penalty effectvely means a serious possibility of relegation to C1 the following year.

Now, just because a prosecutor recommends something doesn't mean it's going to happen. The verdict - which is expected to be handed down on Monday (the day after the World Cup final), can of course be appealed and even if the sentence is harsh, one can expect some watering down to occur. But it will have to happen fast; the Italian league has to send UEFA its list of teams entering various competitions (e.g. Champions League) by no later than July 27.

At Juve, they're expecting the worst. Fabio Capello, Juve's boss, resigned about an hour ago, presumably to take up the vacant mangerial position at Real Madrid. One of Juve's coaches, former playing great Gianluca Pessotto, might have been expected to take the reins, but he remains in critical condition after an attempted suicide last week.

Two things of note here:

First, the fire sale that will happen the instant the verdict comes down will be utterly unprecedented in the history of professional sports. If Milan and Juve do go down, they will lose all their players. Every last one of them. With the possible exception of Maldini, all the playes will scatter, at bargain basement prices. Clubs in Italy would like to be able to buy some of them, but it;s not clear that any team other than Inter is actually solvent (a highly relative term in Italy). So what it really means is that there will be a vast exodus of players to Spain and England right on the start of a new season. Many of these players are foreign, but many too are Italian. Italian stars have - not without reason - always been loath to leave Italy; next year may see substantial numbers of stars such as Buffon, Zambrotta, Gattuso, and Pirlo plying their trade outside Italy...which in the long-run is probably a good thing for Italian football.

Second, Serie A will be even less competitive than usual next year. A provisional league list based on the present situation would look like this:

Large, sort-of-solvent clubs with real talent bases: Inter, Roma
Medium-sized teams that don't completely suck: Chievo, Livorno, Parma, Udinese, Sampdoria
Smallish teams that were in Serie A last year but were lucky to survive: Empoli, Ascoli, Siena, Reggina, Cagliari.
Teams promoted from Serie B: Atalanta, Catania, Torino

Now, if four extra teams go down from Serie A to B (or beyond), then the league could decide to a) allow the three relegated teams (Messina, Lecce an the truly wretched Treviso) to stay up and allow 4th placed serie B team Mantova to join them, or b) send those three teams down, and bring Modena, Cesena and Arezzo up to join Mantova. Either way, it will be a ludicrously weak league - probably on par with the Turkish league for excitement.

Oh, and by the way: Italy's four Champions league entries for 06-07 would be: Inter (as Champions, fer Crissakes) and Roma in the automatic qualifications spots, and - no, I am not making this up - Chievo and Palermo as the two sent into the qualifying round.

Well over half the national team plays for the four clubs currently in the dock. Even if Italy do win the World Cup, next week will be very, very nasty for most of the players. A bleaker homecoming would be hard to devise. Still, it's the right thing to do. And if it cleans up the game in Italy, and makes the league more competitive - so much the better. It's about time.


Blogger northtwilight said...

Geez... always wanted Inter to go forward. But this leaves a bit of a sour taste.

11:57 AM  

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