Last week, when the clubs involved in the Italian
match-fixing scandal were given their punishments, there was little
surprise that three of the main players – Juventus, Lazio, and Fiorentina – were
relegated to the second division. AC Milan suffered only a points penalty.

For Juventus, the penalty went further than
demotion. They were also stripped of their last two Serie A titles and had 30
points deducted, which would have made it difficult to climb back into the
Italian first division in one season (a win is worth three points, a draw one).
In effect, it was a two year penalty, and with many of their top players now
signing deals with new clubs, the
rebuilding process is going to be a long and humble one.

But then, who has any sympathy for them?
Well, it seems the appeals court hearing their complaints about the sentences
does, last night taking some of the weight out of the initial penalties.
Juventus has managed to have its points penalty reduced from 30 to 17, which
will keep it in second division for next season at least, while Lazio and
Fiorentina effectively had their first division status restored, but will start
the season with 11 and 19 point penalties respectively.

“There is
absolutely no way we can accept this sentence,” responded Juventus chairman Giovanni Cobolli Gigli on the club’s
website. “Above all, a
punishment has been inflicted on us which will seriously jeopardise next
season.”

That’s
an instructive comment: along with their poor understanding of fair play, it
appears Juventus also fail to understand the nature of punishment. His petulant
display may be just what fans and sponsors need to hear right now, but talking
of pursuing justice has a faintly ridiculous ring to it. Fleeing from justice,
or wriggling from its grip, would be a more honest way to describe it.

The
crucial issue here is that Juventus pay an appropriate price for their
cheating. If the courts decide they should be reinstated to Serie A, or have
their titles restored, fans must accept the decision. But if it appears that
Juventus have not been held to account for their law-breaking, the reputation of
the club and the integrity of Serie A will remain in question.

Peter Fray

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