Kickback scandal rocks football

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The Independent Online
ROME - First 'Clean Hands', now 'Clean Feet'. Italy's investigating magistrates are looking into suspicions that the champion football club A C Milan was involved in kickbacks as well as kick- offs, writes Patricia Clough.

Carabinieri raided the offices of the Lega Calcio, Italy's football association, on Monday and seized contracts in which the club had agreed that its players should wear shirts advertising the confectionery firm Motta. The magistrates' suspicions were aroused by the fee - officially 10bn lire ( pounds 4m) per season.

Neapolitan magistrates believe the amount Milan took was 7.1bn lire and the rest found its way, via a company owned by a former referee, to a Swiss bank account belonging to an unnamed politician.

Milan's chief executive, Adriano Galliani, insisted the contract was 'correct and transparent'. The team manager, Ariedo Braida, said it was 'beyond the bounds of reality' that Milan could have been involved in political corruption.

Italy's football world is already in a spin over investigations by Turin magistrates into suspicions of huge fiddles that enabled clubs to pay several times more than the permitted rate for players. Footballers are also suspected of taking part of their salaries under the counter, to get round the rules and maybe avoid tax.

A case in point is that of Alessandro Palestro, 16, son of the secretary to the chairman of Torino football club. Alessandro, no great shakes at stopping balls, was made goalkeeper to the Torino youth team and then 'sold' to Venice for 1.8bn lire. At the same time, Torino sold its centre forward, Francesco Romano, to Venice for 660m lire, the most the Lega would allow. Palestro's sale, the magistrates believe, accounted for the remainder of his real price.