Italian soccer scandal deepens

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> An Italian parliamentary committee will investigate distribution of soccer TV rights and look at measures to tighten sporting financial controls.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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An Italian parliamentary committee will investigate distribution of soccer TV rights and look at measures to tighten sporting financial controls. Pietro Folena, the head of the parliamentary cultural commission, said the inquiry is aimed at securing the autonomy of the soccer sector. Folena added that the inquiry - modeled on a similar EU probe issued last month - would also look at the role of soccer agents and referees, whose conduct is at the heart of Italy's match-fixing scandal. Increasingly, TV rights make up the lion's share of soccer club revenues. "The massive amount of money that flows through the world of soccer with the individual sale of TV rights and the diffusion of images on different platforms has resulted in a serious imbalance for the entire system," said Giovanna Melandri, Italian Sports Minister. Last week, 26 soccer officials - including referees - and Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina were indicted by the Italian soccer federation on charges of match fixing and violating the sports code's requirement for loyalty and honesty. The four clubs risk demotion to a lower division and point reductions for next season. They are to face a sports tribunal in Rome's Olympic Stadium starting Thursday, and a decision is expected before the World Cup final on July 9. Juventus in trouble Investigators claim that former officials of Juventus, the team at the center of the scandal, created a widespread system of corruption that ranged from referee assignments to getting players booked. Former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi, who was indicted last week, has claimed that TV rights are at the heart of power in Italian and European soccer. "The real power is in the hands of those who control TV," said Moggi. One of Europe's top teams in terms of revenues, Juventus reported to analysts in March that sponsorship and TV broadcast rights deals comprised 69 per cent of its revenues in the first half of the 2005-06 season. At least, five more teams from Italy's top three divisions are being investigated by the Italian soccer federation. Prosecutors in Naples, Rome, Parma and Turin are also conducting separate criminal probes into fraud, illegal betting and false bookkeeping, but it could be months before any indictments are issued. In its report, the European Union called for the introduction of a watchdog agency to stem corruption. Melandri has backed the EU report and criticized calls for an amnesty if Italy wins the World Cup. "I am exasperated when I hear talk of amnesty with so much euphoric thoughtlessness. "Italian soccer today does not need the improbable and impossible cleaning of the slate," said Melandri She believes that beyond the criminal and sporting trials, new rules are necessary to clean up the sport. (AP)