ROME (AP) — FIFA president Gianni Infantino labeled the chaos in Italy’s lower divisions an “absurdity.”
And it’s hard to argue with him.
Two months into the season, several clubs still don’t know which division they will be playing in and some teams have hardly played at all.
The disorder is highlighting the failure of Italy’s complicated sports justice system.
On Wednesday, a regional appeals court overturned an Italian soccer federation decision from August that had reduced Serie B from 22 to 19 clubs.
The earlier decision by the federation’s emergency commissioner Roberto Fabbricini was made following the bankruptcies of Avellino, Bari and Cesena.
Virtus Entella, Novara, Pro Vercelli and Ternana — the four clubs relegated at the end of last season — plus Catania and Siena — which each lost in the Serie C playoffs — are all arguing for a place in the second division.
But it remains unclear which clubs might now be promoted or re-instated, or if the appealing teams might accept financial payoffs instead.
Eight rounds of Serie B have already been played among the existing 19 clubs, with one team sitting idle each weekend.
Meanwhile, Entella has played only one game in Serie C, which is also known as the Lega Pro, while it awaits the outcome of its appeal.
Novara, Pro Vercelli, Ternana and Catania have also played fewer matches than the norm in the third division.
“It’s not tolerable that some squads still don’t know what league they will play in,” Infantino said at Monday’s election of Gabriele Gravina as president of the Italian federation. “It seems to me a real absurdity.
“Why does Italian football need outside help to resolve problems that can be resolved internally?” Infantino added, referring to the appeal to an ordinary (non-sports) court.
Fabbricini had been running the federation since February, after a failed vote to find a successor for Carlo Tavecchio, who resigned following Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup nearly a year ago.
There were also emergency commissioners of the federation following the 2006 Italian match-fixing and refereeing scandal known as “calciopoli.”
“Four and a half years of emergency commissioners in the last 20 years seems like an absurdity to me,” Infantino said. “There needs to be a strong federation now.”
The decision on how to resolve the situation will now likely be made by Gravina, who was previously the Serie C president.
The matter was taken to a regional appeals court after the clubs’ cases were rejected by multiple sports justice outlets.
The appeals court in Rome ruled that Fabbricini did not have the power to alter the number of squads in Serie B.
“The government didn’t have any desire to and no interests in intervening in sports justice,” government undersecretary and sports delegate Giancarlo Giorgetti told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “We were forced to take an initiative because nobody was meeting the interests of the clubs.”
By ANDREW DAMPF
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