It is regarded as the darkest hour in the history of Serie A, and one that has left an indelible stain on the reputation of the country’s biggest club, Juventus. AC Milan, Lazio, and Fiorentina also subsequently became implicated in what became known as Calciopoli (Footballgate).
And even 15 years after the sentences were handed out, the legacy of it remains, and it is one of the factors that gives the Juventus – Inter Milan rivalry an extra edge.
The saga began in 2004 when two separate rumours began to circulate in the Italian press. The first was that Juventus players had been involved in doping, and the other involved suggestions of illegal betting and corrupt match officials.
As a consequence, the Italian police force appointed a task force to investigate. Neither of these allegations were found to be true, but, in the course of their enquiries, another issue came to light.
Using the tapes of wiretapped conversations between the general managers of Juventus, Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo and officials from the Italian Football Federation, it was discovered that the pair were accusing certain referees of being too objective, and that they should be punished as a consequence. Instead, they put pressure on for officials who would be favourable to Juventus to be appointed to matches involving them.
One of those “punished” was 2002 World Cup referee Pierluigi Collina, who suddenly found that he was never asked to take charge of any of the big games in Italian football.
Referees, instead, were chosen who would favour Juventus directly or indirectly – for example, top players from rival teams would be given yellow cards in other matches so that it meant they missed a forthcoming clash with Juventus.
Moggi also allied himself with Italy’s leading football commentator Fabio Baida, encouraging the latter live on air to heavily criticise a referee if ever they gave a decision against Juventus. The pair would discuss beforehand what Baida would say, with the commentator given exclusive access to Juventus, and other favours, in exchange for his services.
The scandal widened when other wiretaps implicated the management of Milan, Lazio, and Fiorentina, as well as Reggina in similar schemes involving referees.
The referees themselves maintained they had no choice – either go along with it, or find themselves marginalised.
In 2006 the matter was brought to trial and guilty verdicts were returned; Juventus were given the heaviest punishment. They were demoted to Serie B, and they were stripped off their 2004 – 2005 league title, which was subsequently left vacant. They were also stripped of their 2005 – 2006 league title and demoted to last place in the table, with Inter Milan named Champions in their stead.
Fiorentina and Lazio were initially demoted to Serie B, but, on appeal, there sentences were reduced to being excluded from European competitions the following season, and having to play several matches behind closed doors. AC Milan were docked 30 points from the following season’s Serie A total, whilst Reggina were fined €100,000.
Moggi was banned or life and given a jail sentence for sporting fraud, although, in the end, he never served a day in prison.
Juventus went on to win promotion back to Serie A the following season, and went on to become the most dominant club in Italy in the last decade.
However, the legacy of the scandal lives on, most notably in the Derby D’Italia against hated rivals Inter.
Juventus have never accepted the bestowing of the 2005 – 2006 title on Inter in place of them, and have taken to wearing the star depicting that title success on their shirts, and have claimed it in their club records.
And, amongst certain sections of the fan base, there remains a lingering suspicion that what they are seeing on the pitch is not all it seems.
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.