Juventus’ Questionable relegation: when referee designators were the most desired pawns

14th May 2006, Allesandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet are on the scoresheet as Juventus coast to a 2-0 win at Reggina, on the final day of the season. The Old Lady’s striking duo finished on 35 goals between them in Italy’s showpiece competition.

Juventus reign supreme, again. Their talents too much to halt in their quest for the club’s 28th Serie A title. The Turin based club put up 91 points for the season, three points adrift of an AC Milan squad boasting a plethora of world-class talent.

Those wildly celebrating in white and black soon to be silenced. Juventus’ 91 points soon to be erased. Four of Italy’s biggest and most prestigious football clubs are now in the spotlight during Serie A’s darkest hour. 

A series of wiretaps are set to derail any plans of an open-top bus parade through the streets of Turin. Italy’s footballing body has no choice but to take action. 

The recorded phone-calls make up the foundations for the biggest scandal to grace the Serie A, without question. Similarities of AC Milan and Lazio’s 1980 match-fixing debacle were to rear their head in a situation Juventus had found themselves engulfed in. 

‘Calciopoli’ transcripts for Italy’s consumption

Alongside Juventus’ many impressive triumphs in Italy and Europe, the 2005/06 season will rank amongst the most memorable in football. The Serie A win on the last day of the season came only five days after Juventus’ entire board of directors had handed in their resignations. Off-field scandal had hit the club damagingly despite their players delivering silverware. 

Luciano Moggi, Juventus’ general manager, had caught the eye of prosecutors in Italy. A series of conversations with referee designators were uncovered. Additionally, Moggi’s activity through GEA World, a football management agency of which he and his son owned, also allegedly crossed the line into corruption at the highest level in football. 

The phone calls encountered by the taskforce were unexpected. The wiretap probe was engineered to put the Juventus hierarchy in the spotlight to unearth any truth behind doping accusations in the nineties. However, what was uncovered instead would send shockwaves through Italy.

The outcome of extensive wiretaps and probing would bring shocking findings to the door of the Italian public. Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina, would find themselves on the wrong side of the law, in a country where mafia and corruption has its roots in society.

‘Calciopoli’ is the term attributed to the investigations, loosely translated to ‘football-gate’. A mention of Calciopoli to Italian fans today will likely foster a range of emotions. There were few teams it didn’t affect in Serie A. Final league standings changed, European qualification saw new faces, and 20th place at the bottom of the table had never witnessed such esteemed company.

Transcripts were published in Gazzetta Dello Sport for the country to see. Moggi and former Juventus chief executive Antonio Giraudo’s dealings were laid bare. The pair worked closely at Juventus, however, their working relationship would ultimately spur each other one step too far in the eyes of prosecutors.

The phone-calls detailed in black and white and now on the kitchen table in most Italian homes, described how select referees were targeted in 2004/05. Moggi and Giraudo’s scheming in search of cherry-picking men in black likelier to give Juventus a favourable decision, was now for all to see. Phone-calls were made to high ranking Italian officials involved with designating referees to officiate Serie A matches.

An Italian official up to his neck in controversy was Pierluigi ’Gigi’ Pairetto, the president of the Italian Referees’ Association, and a member of UEFA’s Referees Commission. The transcripts show an unusual amount of calls between the president of the referees association and the general manager of the Serie A giants.

11th August 2004, in the aftermath of Juventus’ Champions League first leg 2-2 draw against Swedish outfit, Djugarden, Moggi calls Pairetto. Moggi had just watched referee Herbert Fandel, disallow a goal from Italian striker, Fabrizio Miccoli.

Pairetto: Hello!

Moggi: Gigi? Where are you?

Pairetto: We left.

Moggi: Oh, what kind of fuck referee did you send us?

Pairetto: Oh, Fandel is one of the best.

Moggi: I know, but Miccoli’s goal was valid.

Pairetto: No, it wasn’t.

Moggi: It was valid; it was valid!

Pairetto: No, it was right in front [of the ref].

Moggi: What are you talking about? It wasn’t in front, all throughout the match he messed things up for us!

Pairetto: But he’s one of the top…

Moggi: He can go and fuck himself. And for Stockholm [the return leg] I’m counting on you!

Pairetto: For fuck’s sake. Mamma mia. This surely has to be a proper match.

Moggi: No, we’ll win. You know…

A livid general manager left incensed, deciding to contact a member of the UEFA referees commission to ensure his feelings were known. The strong-armed tactics from Moggi would continue to be a theme in the transcripts.

Pairetto’s clear and distinct relationship with Moggi saw him contact referees once he had designated them to officiate Juventus games. A conversation between Pairetto and Paolo Dondarini, a Serie A referee, was included in the transcripts. 

Donadarini was delegated to undertake the league clash between Juventus and Sampdoria by Pairetto, who had a parting piece of simple advice before Donadarini took to the field:

Pairetto: You know what you have to do. Make sure you see everything, even that which isn’t there.

Pairetto would prove not to be the only crook high up in the referees’ association, as the Italian Football Federation’s vice-President, Innocenzo Mazzini, wanted in on the act. 

Mazzini’s role within the transcripts was to accept a Maserati as a gift. An agreement paid for by the Juventus owners, the Agnelli’s, but initiated by Moggi.

So far, it’s clear that Moggi and Giraudo used their status and presence in the game to encourage favourable decisions. However, this isn’t match-fixing, is it? 

It’s certainly not acceptable, and there’s no room for it in football. But outside of Italy, the damaging Calciopoli events that rocked Italian football is most commonly known as the ‘match-fixing’ scandal. That is how I have interpreted it.

You may be thinking, ‘what difference does it make?’ It does make a difference. We’ll return to this shortly.

Shady transfer dealings

Aside from the ‘match-fixing’ scandal served up to the Italian public, it also highlighted the weight in which Moggi and Giraudo applied to transfer dealings through Moggi’s football management agency, GEA World. 

A snippet from a conversation between the pair focused on transfer target, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, an imposing young striker plying his trade in the Netherlands. Ibrahimovic played well, scored, and prompted an adverse reaction from the Juventus chiefs:

Moggi: What the hell! But I specifically told him to play badly.

Giraudo: I told him! We had agreed that he would play badly. Go see the manager after the game. Tell him that he would never play for them again and demand that he be sold to us.

Had Ibrahimovic been asked to perform in a certain way before the match? Was this to keep his transfer value at a minimum? How many times did Moggi and Giraudo have an input in transfer targets and their performances for current clubs?

In a similar conversation held with Luciano Moggi’s son and founder of GEA World, Alessandro Moggi, Juve’s general manager looked to offload Fabrizio Miccoli in the summer of 2004:

L. Moggi: I asked Claudio Lotito (Lazio President) for €10m, and he told me €5m, no? You must tell him; ‘look, I can convince my father to do it for €7.5m.’ Tell him some stories at the beginning.

A. Moggi: Ok.

L. Moggi’s next phone call was to a friend of Miccoli:

L. Moggi: Tell him to be less stupid otherwise I won’t let him be called up for the national team. So I pass a judgement on him because I will send him to the national team.

Then-Italy manager Marcelo Lippi had previously worked at Moggi’s Juventus. It was alleged that Moggi had pressured Lippi to select players represented by GEA World in a bid to raise the stature of clients on their books. In this case, Moggi seems to be using the lure of playing for the national team as a way to prise Miccoli into committing to pastures new. A series of allegations that had now made it to the pinnacle of Italian football; The Azzurri.

The conversations unearthed within the transcripts highlighting GEA World’s shady transfer dealings would prove so damning, it would form a separate legal trial. The GEA World scandal would have both Moggi’s in the crosshairs.

The unprecedented rulings in the Calciopoli

With prosecutors gunning for relegation to be handed to all clubs involved, the original punishments would be very harsh for the five clubs in question. For the upcoming 2006/07 season, the sentences handed out initially looked like this:

Juventus: relegation to Serie B and -30 points in Serie B

Lazio: relegation to Serie B and -7 points in Serie B

Fiorentina: relegation to Serie B and -12 points in Serie B

Reggina: -15 points in Serie A

AC Milan: -15 points in Serie A

A harsh set of repercussions threatening some of the biggest football clubs in Italy. Following appeals from all clubs involved bar Reggina, the final punishments were reduced:

Juventus: relegation to Serie B and -9 points in Serie B

Lazio: no relegation and -3 points in Serie A

Fiorentina: no relegation and -15 points in Serie A

Reggina: -11 points in Serie A

AC Milan: -8 points in Serie A

Juventus would be playing in Serie B after relegation from Italy’s top-flight. It was now set in stone. Juventus were also stripped of their two previous league titles and replaced in the following season’s Champions League.

Aside from the obvious humiliation of the club’s involvement, there were players unwilling to allow their career to stoop to the lowly level of the Serie B. 

Inter Milan gladly poached Ibrahimovic for £21m and Patrick Vieira for £8m. Emerson vacated for Madrid for an unsuccessful £13m spell, accompanied by Fabio Cannavaro who proved to be a great servant for the Spaniards. Zambrotta and Lillian Thuram went to Barcelona, and Adrian Mutu transferred to Fiorentina.

GETTY

Ibrahimovic and Vieira were not the only goods heading to Milan. Following the stripping of the 2004/05 and the 2005/06 titles from The Old Lady, the Italian football federation (FIGC) handed Inter the 2005/06 Scudetto. A decision condemned to this day by all in Turin. 

If you ask a Juventus fan what aspect of the rulings was most damaging; the relegation or the title handed to Inter, it would likely be the sight of blue and black ribbons on the snatched trophy.

The mystery in the ruling to relegate Juventus is one greeted with confusion in legal circles. Relegation is a sanction not to be taking lightly in football. Regardless of stature in the game, a ruling so fierce could ruin a football club. A club’s reputation, finances, and livelihoods within the organisation, are all put in jeopardy.

Luckily for Juventus, their previous substantial successes had financially set them up for the foreseeable future. Alongside a healthy bank balance, the playing staff were more than equipped to ensure a swift return to Serie A.

With the repercussions of such rulings so severe, what does the FIGC’s code for sporting justice state to warrant relegation as a sanction for a football club?

Article 6: ‘Illicit activity such as match-fixing.’

A team who violates article 6 of the FIGC code of sporting justice and enters into illicit activity such as match-fixing, may well face relegation as a sanction. As touched upon earlier, the transcripts hadn’t offered up anything close to match-fixing. Nothing was presented to FIGC which suggested Juventus officials played any part in match-fixing.

Match-fixing is the art of throwing a game in favour of a team, or by predetermining specific events, including goals scored, the final scoreline, number of cards, penalties etc. The transcripts presented to prosecutors were damning, but it didn’t quite cross that line.

FIGC’s actions in relegating Juventus and handing the title to Inter Milan were somewhat peculiar. Moggi and Juventus should have been punished, that is not up for dispute. However, the severity of the ruling and the new location for the Scudetto, was unprecedented and should never have happened.

The final ruling in the Calciopoli years later judged that Juventus had never breached article 6. The Serie A champions should never have encountered their shock Serie B 1-1 draw away to Rimini on the opening game of the season. Nor should they have trounced Piacenza 4-0 in Turin, or handed a 5-1 thrashing away to Arezzo, in Tuscany.

The findings stated that some club officials had violated article 6, but none had originated from Juventus.

FIGC created a structured article violation with their decision-making. This is where instead of finding an article 6 breach, several article 1 violations were pieced together to create what was conveyed as worthy of relegation from Italy’s top-flight. Article 1 violations in Italian football usually command fines, bans, or points deductions, but certainly not relegation.

The Cardboard Scudetto

Although Moggi and Juventus played an integral role in the Calciopoli, it would be remiss not to mention similar shadowy hierarchies operating in the world where an unspoken, but implied contract with a referee designator, is as coveted as a contract with a 30-goal a season striker.

We have established that Moggi is no angel and liked to do his business on a murky cusp. He was deserving of the lifetime ban he received and his forbidden involvement in football is one that should stand.

As an avid binge-watcher of crime-thriller television dramas, let me tell you that individuals who gain from a crime or scandal, may just be worth looking into as the perpetrator of said misdemeanour.

Who benefitted most from the Calciopoli and Juventus falling from their perch? Without doubt, Internazionale. 

The blue side of Milan were handed the 2005/06 championship following the stripping of two Juventus titles. The 2004/05 title was chalked off entirely. However, the title the year after would be given to third-place Inter Milan. As AC Milan were also embroiled in the scandal, Inter leapfrogged both and were retrospectively awarded the Serie A title. Or as Juventus fans have coined it; the Cardboard Scudetto.

The Calciopoli scandal occurred nearly 15 years ago now, but that doesn’t mean it has been forgotten. In October 2019, Juventus lodged their 30th appeal to revoke Inter’s cardboard Scudetto and return it to its rightful owner. 

On the face of the original Calciopoli trials, it is unclear of Inter’s involvement. They were simply the next best team in the Serie A to not enter into any form of corruption, right? 

Were Inter Milan officials the driving force behind Calciopoli as we know it?

Inter president, Massimo Moratti, had not seen his side win the Scudetto since 1989 come the emergence of the Calciopoli. This wasn’t through the want of trying, Inter had spent vast amounts of money in the process. Ronaldo arriving for a world-record £19.5m fee from Barcelona, in 1997, is testament to that.

Imagine a scenario where the best team in Italy is relegated, fierce crosstown rivals AC Milan are docked points, and Inter is awarded the Scudetto, setting them up with a clear run in the Serie A for the next year or two. Sounds like a fairytale for Interistis.

How the unfolding situation fell into Inter’s lap had prompted suggestions that Moratti had in fact masterminded the whole thing. Hear me out.

The Calciopoli scandal was revealed publicly and in an awkward fashion. The public didn’t hear of goings-on through your usual channels. The Italian newspaper, Gazzetta Dello Sport, released the transcripts from wiretaps conjured up by Telecom Italia, consequently creating mass hysteria throughout the country.

As AC Milan were also implicated and everyone in Italy was aware, its vice chairman and CEO, Andrea Galliani, had no choice but to step down from his FIGC post. Galliani was president of the Italian football federation at the time. 

Guido Rossi was his replacement. Rossi was formerly the director of Inter, as well as a major shareholder. Rossi was the man now tasked with leading the FIGC through the turbulent period of the Calciopoli. 

Why the Gazzetta Dello Sport? Perhaps it was because Carlo Buora owned the newspaper. You guessed it, formerly heavily involved with Inter. Buora, once upon a time, was Inter’s Vice President.

Rossi, who had taken over from Galliani at FIGC, soon resigned from his role following the Calciopoli. A short stint indeed. He would become the president of Telecom Italia, the telecommunications company behind the recordings between Moggi and referee designators. 

The owner of Telecom Italia was Maro Tronchetti Provera. Provera was one of Inter Milan’s most significant shareholders. 

Can these links be just a coincidence? Well, guess who was also on the board at Telecom Italia? None other than Inter chairman, Massimo Moratti. 

Buora, from the newspaper Gazzetta Dello Sport, was also a member of Telecom Italia’s board. I kid you not. 

Scratch the surface and Inter’s presence in the Calciopoli grows into something quite prominent. It is fact that influential figures of an Inter Milan persuasion held positions of power within companies involved in the scandal, at the time of the Calciopoli.

Moratti (left) and Moggi

In an attempt to gauge the feeling within the Juventus fanbase, I discussed the Calciopoli with Italian football writer and Juventus supporter, John Irving

John talks about the findings from the years that followed the scandal and the information which Moggi’s defence team discovered in his criminal lawsuit.

Inter proved to be the only winners from the Calciopoli. Is there a sense in Italy, or Juventus circles, that there is weight to suggestions that Inter’s Massimo Moratti had a big part to play in the Calciopoli?

John: Not a sense, but a certainty.

I’m assuming you know all about the events that led up to the scandal, the sporting justice trial, Guido Rossi’s tampering with the system, Juve’s relegation to Serie B etc. etc. That was in 2006.

Between 2008 and 2011, the criminal lawsuit against Moggi was brought to the court in Naples. During the trial, Moggi’s defence team unearthed a series of compromising wiretaps between Giacinto Facchetti (Inter chairmen until his death in 2006), Moratti, the referee designators, Bergamo and Pairetto, plus with the referee, Nucini. Moggi had never ever spoke directly to a referee.

The public prosecutor, Giuseppe Narducci, had previously declared that no such conversations had ever taken place?

Attilio Auricchio, the major of the Carabinieri (One of Italy’s primary law enforcement agencies), who had the job of transcribing the tapes in the first place, said under oath that he had been ordered to concentrate solely on transcripts involving Juventus, and to overlook any including Inter. 

The Inter conversations obviously hadn’t appeared at the sporting justice trial five years earlier. So, the Football Federation prosecutor, Stefano Palazzi, undertook a fresh investigation on the basis of the new evidence. Palazzi determined that Facchetti and Inter had violated Article 6 of the Code of Sporting Justice on match-fixing and attempted match-fixing. 

The problem was that by the time he had submitted his report, Inter couldn’t be punished since the facts in question were, by now, covered by the statute of limitations (and Facchetti had passed away anyway). 

Moratti could of course have waived the statute, but he obviously didn’t. This is why Juventus fans are so bitter about what they refer to not as “Calciopoli”, but as “Farsopoli”. 

It’s also important to add that the final sporting sentence stated that Juventus had NOT violated Article 6 and that the season under investigation, 2004/05, was fair and legitimate. This is why it’s annoying to hear the so-called football experts in Britain still talking about the “Juventus match-fixing scandal”. The facts I’ve cited above are all verifiable: Moratti was arguably the leading player in Calciopoli.

How prevalent was the Calciopoli in the media in Italy at the time? Do you recall it discussed much where you live?

John: It was all over the media in 2006. We talked about nothing else. I still speak about it virtually every morning with my tobacconist (who supports Juventus) and my newsagent (who’s an Inter supporter). Newspapers (especially La Gazzetta Dello Sport and Repubblica) conducted what amounted to a witch-hunt against Moggi and Juventus. 

My personal opinion is that, while Moggi was and is no saint, at that moment in time, he wouldn’t have got a fair trial anywhere in Italy (if you see what I mean). I’d also add that at the end of the first sporting justice trial, Palazzo declared that the sentence reflected “widespread popular feeling”. What sort of justice is that? 

I remember being at a dinner in Turin in the spring of 2006, just as the scandal was breaking, where one of the guests was Fulvio Gianaria, a lawyer who was part of Moggi’s legal team. “A great injustice is about to be committed,” he told me. The problem is that the same media that launched the scandal in the first place didn’t afford the same coverage to subsequent developments. 

Most Inter fans I know (and fans of other teams too, for that matter) genuinely believe that Calciopoli was all about Juventus, and that Inter are the honest ones in this. They don’t know that Inter benefited from the statute of limitations for accusations far more serious than those levelled against Juventus, simply because they were never informed. When I tell them the facts, they just brush them off as idle gossip.

As a Juventus fan, how did you feel about the Calciopoli and Moggi’s involvement? It could be argued that Juventus didn’t need any help from the dark-arts to win titles?

John: As I said above, it was judged that Juventus did NOT violate Article 6 and that the 2004-2005 season was deemed fair and legitimate. No matches were fixed, no money changed hands, and most of the charges were spurious. Where were the dark arts? 

If you want to speak about dark arts, I’d look in Moratti’s direction. Capello and the Juventus players still say that they won their scudetti fairly and squarely on the pitch. And they did.

From a Juventus fan’s perspective, is there an additional sense of rivalry between Inter and Juventus because of the ‘Cardboard Scudetto’ handed to Inter?

John: There was huge rivalry before, and it’s probably greater now. Things have changed, though. I personally have got nothing against the present Inter players and Conte (apart from the fact that he signed for Inter!) and the Chinese ownership, but I still get angry when I see Moratti and some of the players from the past still making snide remarks in the press about how they weren’t “allowed” to win in the early 2000s. 

Has Serie A and its clubs made any headway in gaining trust back from the Italian public in the last 15 years?

John: No, there was no trust before anyway! In Italy, we’re “vaccinated” against scandals. Corruption, illegal betting, passport theft and forgery (Inter again), falsification of accounts (Inter again)… you name it. The problems that are dealt with are sometimes swept under the carpet with complaisant media outlets stoking the flames in the background. What’s there to trust?

The final findings of the Calciopoli

In the years following the Calciopoli, as John alluded to, Moggi’s defence lawyers in his criminal trial would bring findings to FIGC’s doorstep that had somehow escaped the original Calciopoli trial.

Inter’s involvement in potential match-fixing were cast into the spotlight. The FIGC’s chief investigator, Stefanie Palazzi, was tasked with examining the new evidence in the form of wiretaps. 

Palazzi’s findings showed that former Inter President, Giacinto Facchetti, just like Moggi, regularly conversed with referee designators. Facchetti’s actions mirrored that of Moggi’s, but were arguably worse.

So, the view that Moggi’s Juventus had an exclusive relationship with the designators of Serie A officials was false. The club who was awarded the 2005/06 Scudetto was just as heavily involved. Although, Moggi was never found to have contacted referees directly as Facchetti did.

A statute of limitations for those unaware is simply a period of time after an event which, when surpassed, disables the ability for legal proceedings to be initiated. It could also be defined as Inter Milan’s saviour in terms of any possible further sanctions. 

The three club officials who had breached article 6 according to the report? Facchetti of Inter, Meani of AC Milan, and Spinelli of Livorno.

Inter’s name was muddied, but not quite like Juve’s and Moggi’s. The former Juventus general manager has denied any wrong-doing, although heavily involved in the Calciopoli. Moggi left Juventus with a parting speech;

“I don’t have either the strength nor the willingness to answer any question. I miss my soul; it has been killed. Tomorrow I’ll be resigning, since tonight the football world isn’t my world anymore. I’ll think only to defend myself from all allegations and wicked actions.”

Moggi initially received a five-year prison sentence for his role in the scandal. With appeals this was first reduced to two years and four months. In 2015, the final ruling saw Moggi acquited of criminal conspiracy with no further trials pencilled in, due to the statute of limitations. Giraudo, Moggi’s partner in crime, also saw his sentence of one year and eight months for fraud wiped off due to the statute.

The majority of football fans worldwide may not be aware of Palazzi’s findings. You could be hard-pressed to find many football fans outside of Italy that do.

Following Palazzi’s report, the then-president of FIGC, Giancarlo Abete, proclaimed that there is no legal grounds to strip the 2005/06 Scudetto from Inter Milan. Accompanying his comments, he did say that perhaps Inter should chalk the Scudetto off their records and leave it unassigned under ethics reasonings.

The Cardboard Scudetto resides in Milan, for now.

Transcript translation: Calciopoli Scandal Archive 2006

Written by Sam Ingram – @SamIngram_