More than 50 people have been arrested or detained throughout Italy and more than 70 placed under investigation as part of a widespread match-fixing inquiry led by anti-Mafia prosecutors in the southern town of Catanzaro.
The sweep involves “dozens” of fixed matches in Italian football’s third and fourth division, police said.
Charges include criminal association aimed at sports fraud, with some linked to Mafia organisations – in particular to the ’ndrangheta organised crime syndicate.
The sweep shows “how the ramifications of the ’ndrangheta have reached a high level not only in the classic areas where criminal gangs operate but also in the world of sports”, anti-Mafia investigator Renato Cortese said at a news conference to detail the probe, labelled Dirty Soccer.
Those involved “were plotting to extend the fixes to Serie B and bigger matches”, Catanzaro prosecutor Vincenzo Antonio Lombardo said.
Catanzaro prosecutors say they have uncovered a network between football players, coaches, club presidents and management members involving more than 30 clubs. One police officer was involved, authorities said.
Authorities said the network also had ties in Serbia, Slovenia, Malta, Turkey and Kazakhstan.
Police say clubs involved include Pro Patria, Barletta, Brindisi, L’Aquila, Neapolis Mugnano, Torres, Vigor-Lametia, Santarcangelo, Sorrento, Montalto, Puteolana, Akragas and San Severo.
“Probably in situations like these there needs to be better control of the leagues and more checks required,” Italian coaches’ association president Renzo Ulivieri told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “If this is the situation, we’re facing an absolute emergency.”
It was not immediately clear if the sweep was linked to the Last Bet operation that has resulted in more than 100 people being placed under investigation in Italy since mid-2011, with suspect Serie A and B matches being looked at by prosecutors in the cities of Cremona, Bari and Naples.