Italy face ban from internationals if Juventus launch court appeal

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The Independent Online

Fifa could ban the world champions Italy and all Italian clubs from international competition if Juventus go to an administrative court to challenge the sanctions they received in the country's match-fixing scandal.

The Fifa spokesman Andreas Herren said yesterday that forcing a decision before a state court would interfere with the autonomy of the football world and undermine the sport's arbitration system.

In a letter sent by Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, to the Italian federation on Tuesday, Fifa said it was prepared to ban all Italian clubs, as well as the national team, from international football if Juventus go ahead with their legal action. "The president referred the Italian federation to Article 61, which states that the decisions of sports courts may not be brought before an administrative court. It also states that national federations must have such an article within their statute books," Fifa said.

Juventus announced after a board meeting on Monday that they planned to appeal to an administrative court in Rome, although they have not formally taken such a step. The Juventus chairman, Giovanni Cobolli Gigli, told reporters then that the club were aware they could incur extra sanctions but would "assume their responsibilities".

Juventus say their punishment is too harsh and that their relegation, which has resulted in top players leaving the club, would have serious consequences for their income.

Herren said: "If Juventus go before an administrative court, then Fifa pass the matter to its emergency committee. The committee wouldn't even have to meet in person. It [the suspension of all Italian teams] could happen very quickly."

A suspension, if it were imposed, would be indefinite and could stop the national team from taking part in the qualifying competition for the 2008 European Championship.

In the letter, Fifa gave the Italian football federation (the FIGC) until yesterday to explain how it would stop Juventus from going ahead with the appeals.

The FIGC responded by saying that it was prepared to open further disciplinary proceedings against Juventus if the club appeal against their sentence to an ordinary court, beyond sports jurisdiction.

Herren said that in an "ideal situation, the Italian federation will solve this problem within its own sports courts".

A ruling on 14 July by the FIGC stripped Juventus of their last two Serie A titles and relegated the Turin powerhouse to the second division. A sports appeals court on 25 July reduced Juventus' points penalty from 30 to 17.

The club argue that the punishment they received was unduly harsh, and that they lost millions of euros as a direct result.

Three other Italian clubs involved in the match-fixing scandal received point penalties, but were not relegated.

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