If you don't care, fine, don't read it, but it's a big story, even if it's not getting ESPN coverage in the states. You just might learn something.
On Sunday, Italian soccer experienced the highest of highs as they won the World Cup. Today, the lowest of lows. The verdicts came down for clubs Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentia, and Lazio in the Italian match-fixing scandal. While the judgements in one of the biggest fixing scandals in sports history are not as bad as they could have been, are still very harsh for the teams involved, which are the club teams for 13 players on Italy's 23-man roster.
In Europe, entire teams move up and down levels based on performance, similar to the U.S. where individual players move up and down between the minor leagues and the majors. Last season these four clubs finished first, second, fourth, and sixth in the top Italian league. For their efforts, Juventus, Milan, and Fiorentia all earned berths in the lucrative Champions League. Lazio earned a spot in the less-lucrative but still competitive UEFA Cup (The Euro NIT). These are all prestigious teams, having won 26 of the last 30 Italian titles.
Milan was spared a demotion to the minors, and will be allowed to remain in Serie A (The major leagues), but will start the season with -15 points (3 points for a win, 1 for a tie), and will not be allowed to participate in the Champions League (a huge financial loss on the order of more than $20 million).
Juventus, Fiorentia, and Lazio have all not only lost their places in European competition, and been demoted to Serie B (Triple-A), but also will start the season with points docked. Juve will start at -30, Fiorentia will start at -12, and Lazio at -7. What this means is that the club with a popularity and wealth on par with the New York Yankees will likely be spending at least the next two seasons in the minor leagues. The teams' star players are likely to leave as some have escape clauses in their contracts that allow them to leave should the team ever be relegated. This is the first time that Juventus have ever been out of the top division in Italy in their 109-year history.
Imagine being a White Sox season ticket holder and opening up your season ticket package and not seeing the Yankees, Twins, or Angels, but instead seeing the Pawtucket Red Sox, Toledo Mudhens, and Salt Lake Bees. Then imagine being told that the league is going to make you start the season with an 0-30 record.
Juve was also stripped of the titles they won the last two seasons. Adjusted, both championships will be awarded to Inter Milan (who finished in third both years behind AC Milan and Juventus).
For next season, Inter(3rd) and AS Roma(5th) will take AC Milan and Juve's spots in the Champions League. Chievo Verona(7th) and Palermo(8th) will join them. Livorno (9th), Parma (10th), and Empoli (11th) will go to the UEFA Cup, producing one of the weakest Italian contingents in European competition ever.
If there are any winners out of this match-fixing scandal, it is likely to be the three last-place teams from 2005-06 (Messina, Lecci, Treviso). Previously put in a position where they were to be relegated, they may now be kept to keep Serie A at 20 teams for 2006-07.