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What next for Italian football?

The news that Antonio Conte and a number of Italian players and backroom staff from Serie A have been arrested on suspicion of match fixing came as quite a shock to many football fans around the world.

Most would assume Juventus in particular had learnt their lesson a decade ago for their involvement in such illegal betting rings.

I still wonder how Gianluigi Buffon emerged unscathed from that and continues to be such a popular goalkeeper, considering his 'involvement'.

Whilst it is still speculation and remains under investigation, it would probably be a final nail in the coffin with Italian football for people like myself.

It was I who only a week ago praised the progression of Juventus and AC Milan, and Antonio Conte in particular for his innovative approach.

Looking back, there were a few nail-biting moments where you thought to yourself, 'surely not'?

I refer to such incidents as the Juventus v Lecce game towards the end of the season.

Had Juventus won, it left them within a point of winning the title, against a Lecce side who needed to win against an unbeaten side, in Turin, to avoid relegation.

In the 88th minute, Juventus are 1-0 up and in control, seemingly cruising towards the title at the weekend.

Bizarre

Gigi Buffon gets the ball at his feet, bizarrely treads on and misses the ball (it wasn't too difficult as he had already controlled it), as a Lecce player then takes it off him and puts it in the empty net.

The kind of moment that when you hear of the arrests right now, just makes you think twice.

For the record, it is not just Juventus in trouble. Other notable arrests include Stefano Mauri who is the captain of a Lazio side who finished just outside the Champions League places, along with Genoa midfielder Omar Milanetto.

Domenico Criscito of Zenit St Petersburg is also under arrest.

It is not just a one off case either. For those who wondered why Atalanta started the season with six points deducted in Serie A (having just been promoted from Serie B), they had Cristiano Doni to thank.

Many will remember the Italian, who was capped on numerous occasions, but was involved in the 'Calcioscommesse' match fixing scandal - an illegal betting ring (effectively illegal betting in the Far East).

Doni was banned for three years whilst Atalanta suffered the points deduction.

Guiseppe Signori was also banned for five years for his involvement, whilst a tally of other players and backroom staff have been banned from the game as well.

Serie B has also been under scrutiny and is most certainly corrupt - not just the players, but the fans.

Threatened by own fans

Bari (who were relegated from Serie A in 2011) saw their players threatened by the clubs' own fans to lose matches in order for them to make a financial gain, essentially betting against their own side.

Games against Sampdoria, Cesena and Chievo in the 2010-11 campaign were found to be under investigation where threats were made.

Whilst Bari players protest their innocence or involvement, Bari did lose all three games against these sides whilst in Serie A.

Whilst the speculation of what will happen to the likes of Conte and Juventus will roar on for a few weeks and well in to Euro 2012, as the investigation goes on the ultimate loser in all this is Serie A football.

I for one have lost faith in a league which is gradually falling behind.

AC Milan's signings already this summer do little to attract you for next season - Ricardo Montolivo and a couple of other free transfers won't make you turn off the Premier League nor La Liga.

Ultimately, many who place a bet on the game will not bother because of the match fixing thoughts in their heads, and thus won't watch the match with any interest.

And those like myself who watch with interest anyway will forever be sceptical that it just isn't genuine, with any mistakes or strange results not being met with surprise, but just more questions in this worryingly corrupt league.

By James Townsend


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