Italian football president Giancarlo Abete has rejected the suggestion that football in Italy should be suspended for up to three years in a order to weed out match-fixing from the game.
Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Monti said yesterday that professional football in Italy could benefit from a break of “two to three years” after the latest developments in an ongoing match-fixing investigation hit the headlines earlier this week.
Nineteen people, among them Lazio captain Stefano Mauri, were arrested on Monday and many others are due to be questioned by prosecutors, but Abete does not feel the way to clean up football is to issue a blanket ban.
“I understand and share Monti’s bitterness. It is the bitterness felt when values are lost,” Abete said on his federation’s website, figc.it.
“In a delicate moment for a country, we need to avoid the risk of generalisation and demonising.
“I am in agreement that those that have done something wrong must pay, but to stop the leagues would mean to damage football.
“It would hinder those that are working in an honest way, which is the majority of our system as well as the loss of thousands of jobs.
“It’s not a solution.
“The match-fixing and betting scandal is a very ugly chapter in our football.
“Several people have been accused of illegal acts that should be sanctioned at all levels should they be found guilty.
“However, Italian football is made of 1.4million registered members, of over 700,000 games a year, of thousands of honest professionals and in order to respect them, we must avoid the risk of generalising.”
Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon has thrown his support behind Abete, insisting that the Prime Minister’s comments should not be put into action.
Buffon was a member of the Juventus side that was stripped of two league titles and relegated to Serie B in 2006 in a match-fixing probe that found the Turin giants guilty of influencing referees.
“Monti is a capable person,” Buffon said in today’s press conference in Italy’s headquarters in Coverciano, Florence. “But I think the best answer has come from our federal president Abete.”
Buffon added: “The players that earn a lot are only those that play for the top clubs and not the others. There are many players – the majority – that once their career is over they will have to find a job, reinvent themselves.
“But the question is whether you have certain values within you. I don’t think I would have ever done those things even if I played in a smaller club because my family has taught me certain values.
“The situation in which our football is today has surprised me. I never thought it could go as far as it has. But if there was to be a break in football, 80 or 85% of the honest players would be penalised.”
This week’s operation was part of an investigation called “Last Bet”, which is focused on 33 games played over the past two seasons, the majority of which were in Serie B.
Earlier this month, the FIGC released the names of 22 clubs along with 61 individuals that have been reported to the football authorities in connection with a match-fixing ring and betting investigation.