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Juve, Lazio and Fiorentina demoted

AC Milan are spared relegation but all four clubs will appeal

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Juve president Cobolli Gigli had expected a more balanced verdict.

ROME , Italy -- A sports tribunal in Italy has demoted Juventus to Serie B for match-fixing Friday and stripped the Turin giant of its last two Serie A titles.

Lazio and Fiorentina also were banished to the second division, while AC Milan was spared relegation but will start next season with a 15-point penalty in Serie A.

The verdict comes five days after Italian fans watched their national team lift the World Cup -- and lawyers of the four clubs immediately announced plans to appeal.

Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli said the verdict was exaggerated. "We expected a far more balanced verdict," Cobolli Gigli said.

Fiorentina said the punishment was "profoundly unjust" in a statement on its Web site. "We will fight with every means in every appropriate forum," it added.

Juventus will be forced to start next season in Serie B with a 30-point penalty. Lazio will start with a seven-point deficit and Fiorentina 13.

AC Milan, who are accused of fixing just one match during the past season, have had their points total from last season reduced by 44 -- ruling them out of next season's Champions League.

The teams will have three days to appeal before a federal court of arbitration and a final decision will be given by July 24.

The scandal broke after transcripts of former Juve general manager Luciano Moggi telling the head of Italy's refereeing commision what officials he wanted appointed to specific games were published in the Italian media.

Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi, one of 25 soccer officials who faced charges of match-fixing and disloyalty, was banned from soccer for five years.

Franco Carraro, who resigned as the head of the Italian soccer league when the scandal broke and is a member of the International Olympic Committee, was banned for 4 1/2 years.

European penalty

Juventus, considered Europe's fourth-richest club, will miss out on receipts from their Champions League appearances -- estimated at around 50 million Swiss francs -- as well as lucrative television and sponsorship deals worth hundreds of millions of euros.

Moreover, the 30-points penalty means the Turin club will face a major challenge trying to return to Serie A. Juventus had never before been relegated in their 108-year-old history.

The verdict was also expected to spark an exodus of star players as the relegated clubs will find it difficult to honor their expensive contracts.

Juventus alone had no less than eight players taking part in Sunday's World Cup final, five for Italy and three for France.

In all, 13 of the 23 players who formed part of Italy's World Cup squad belonged to clubs involved in the scandal.

Among those tipped to leave are Juve's Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta and Gianluigi Buffon, Fiorentina top striker Luca Toni and possibly also Milan's Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Alessandro Nesta and Brazilian ace Kaka.

Top clubs like Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United are all expected to seek their services in the coming season.

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Prosecutor Palazzi wanted Juventus relegated to the third division.

All of the match-fixing allegations, which revolve around a series of wiretapped conversations involving club managers and referee selectors, date back to the 2004-2005 season.

Moggi and Juve chief executive Antonio Giraudo, who have both resigned over the issue together with the whole club board, were accused of creating a powerful and vast organization designed to control the selection of referees assigned to the team's matches.

According to judges, Moggi imposed his choices on referee selectors Paolo Bergamo and Pierluigi Pairetto.

In return, Moggi promised to foster the career of obliging referees like Massimo De Santis thanks to his connections within the FIGC.

Avoid relegation

Fiorentina owners Diego and Andrea Della Valle were accused of agreeing to submit to the so-called Moggi system to avoid relegation and of fixing five key Serie A matches.

Lazio, which like Fiorentina also risked relegation during the same season, were similarly accused of buckling under Moggi's pervasive influence. According to judges, owner Claudio Lotito obtained favorable referees for four of its Serie A games.

Milan were found guilty of entertaining unsavoury relations through manager Leonardo Meani, which led to the help of match officials in at least one game.

Some politicians had called for an amnesty in view of Italy's World Cup victory, but judges ignored their requests.

A total of 25 people, including club managers, football federation officials and referees, were indicted on charges of sporting fraud and unfair behaviour.

Juventus was the only club to admit to unsportsmanlike behaviour by contacting refereeing officials but denied all allegations of actual match-fixing.

A decision on the appeals is required before July 25, the day Italy must register its clubs to take part in European events at the ruling body UEFA.

Should the tribunal's verdicts be upheld after appeal then Inter Milan and AS Roma, who finished third and fifth last season, would go straight into the group stage of the Champions League.

Chievo Verona and Palermo, who finished seventh and eighth last season, would go into the qualifying round for the competition.

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