One of the best known football teams in Italy is Juventus, who are based in Turin, but despite of their impressive performance on the pitch the 2006-2007 season has seen them relegated to the Serie B for the first time in their history.
In fact Juventus finished the previous season at the top of the Serie A league, their relegation – and a starting deficit of 9 points – was all due to a scandal that rocked Italian football and saw sanctions applied to a total of 4 first division clubs, although Juventus was hardest hit and the only one to be eventually relegated.
Juventus and the other three teams – AC Milan, Fiorentina, and Lazio – were all found guilty of influencing game in their favour by having favourable referees appointed to important matches.
The sentence imposed on the four clubs was draconian to say the least – Juventus, which was hardest hit was stripped of its previous 2 league titles, banned from participating in Champions League, relegated to Serie C1 and docked 30 points, while the other teams were relegated to Serie B with fewer points deducted.
On appeal all the teams had their sentences reduced, so that only Juventus was relegated, but to Serie B, and the 30 point penalty was initially reduced to 17 and later only 9 – the equivalent of winning 3 matches with no points awarded.
The relegation saw several players leave Juventus; Emerson and Fabio Cannavaro both moved to Real Madrid, for where the Juventus manager, Fabio Capello, had already departed, while FC Barcelona signed Gianluca Zambrotta and Lilian Thuram.
Some players did remain loyal however, and the team’s performance in Serie B has been impressive. Although they drew in the first match, Juventus won each of the following eight games with only one goal conceded and they remained undefeated until January.
At the time of writing in mid April, Juventus has only lost 2 matches, drawn 8 and won 22. With 10 more matches to play they are not unbeatable due to their 9-point deficit, but if they continue to perform at this level they are sure to re-enter the top division in the 2007-2008 season.
Let us hope that Juventus recaptures its previous glory, but perhaps more importantly, steers clear of behaviour that is in clear breach of good sporting conduct.
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