Should Italian side Napoli have to face up to penalties following the conviction of a former player for match fixing? That is what fans and the officials at the club are concerned about after former goalkeeper Matteo Gianello suffered a heavy punishment, receiving a 39 month ban from the game.
This was following Gianello being found guilty of attempting to fix Napoli’s clash with Sampdoria back in 2010. Former Napoli players Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava were also punished, each being given six month bans from the game because of their failure to report Gianello’s attempted actions. Napoli themselves were fined £57,000 and had points taken off, but the club are unhappy over the decisions.
Especially over receiving the docking of two points. Napoli’s protests over the punishments, mostly the points deduction, is that decisions such as this should be made before the start of any campaign, and not during it. That way the club has time to deal with the prospect of facing the start of a season with negative points, and not having points pulled out from them during the midway point of an important campaign. Not only will they be down two points, but Napoli will also be without the services of Cannavaro and Grava for the rest of the season, unless appeals over their bans are issued and upheld. So they have taken a double whammy.
So should the player punishments be enough for Napoli, who have been enjoying a good season in Serie A? With the loss of points, napoli have dropped to fifth place in the league from third, ten points behind leaders Juventus. What position does that leave Napoli in, mentally though? Will it tear apart or unite? Will the punishment now instil an air of dejection or will it inspire the club, under the management of Walter Mazzarri to push on further and prove that they can achieve success in the face of what they see as being unjust punishment?
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A statement on Napoli’s website said “While not entering into the obsolete and outdated principle of objective responsibility, and reserving any comments on legal action for the appropriate forums, Napoli does not agree with the decisions of the National Disciplinary Committee, considering that they should not be able to irretrievably alter championships that are already in progress. Any decision must be made before the start of a tournament or at the end of it. There has been enough time to evaluate and make a decision since the 2009-10 season.”
Napoli now becomes the fifth side in Serie A to find themselves having lost points this season. Atalanta were docked 2 points, Sampdoria 1 points, Torino 1 point and Siena a massive 6 points in the incident which saw then manager Antonio Conte (the current Juventus boss) suspended for 10 months following a failure to report match-fixing. So while the Italian soccer officials are cracking down on illegal betting activities surrounding the game, investigations which have already led to several arrests and bans, it is another high profile blight on the Italian game.
We have seen Lazio captain Stefan Mauri arrested this year over allegations of match fixing, Verona’s Emanuele Pesoli go on hunger strike after being hit with a three year ban for match fixing, along with a call from Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to suspend football in Italy for up to three years because of the scandal over arrests following the match-fixing rows. Back in May, the PM said “I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to suspend the game for two or three years,” Mr. Monti said on Tuesday.
“It’s particularly sad when a world which should be an expression of the highest values – sport, youth, competition, fairness turns out to be a mass of foul play, falsehood and demagoguery.”
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So is all of the points deductions in Serie A hurting the game further, giving an uneven playing field for clubs who are getting punished because of actions of players? Should the bans for guilty players be enough punishment for a club. In the case of Siena, their six point deduction could is the difference between sitting rock bottom and being up in relative safety. For Napoli the stakes are not as high, but the pursuit of a lucrative Champions League spot has been made harder.