Juventus have been deducted 15 points following an investigation into their past transfer dealings, a development that has rocked Italian football and posed significant questions further afield.
The record 36-time Italian champions, who have denied any wrongdoing and plan to appeal, were accused of fixing their balance sheets by inflating transfer fees, and were handed the punishment by Italy’s court of appeal on Friday.
Juventus were third in the Serie A table but the penalty will drop them to 10th, putting their chances of qualifying for lucrative European competition in peril.
In a late-night statement, the court also imposed bans on 11 past and present Juventus directors from holding positions in Italian football. Former president Andrea Agnelli has been banned for two years and former sporting director Fabio Paratici — now at Tottenham — received a 30-month ban.
The Athletic explains the situation, what might come next for all parties and what the ruling means on and off the field for Juventus, Italian football — and Premier League side Tottenham.
How did we get here?
Let’s go back to 2021.
As Juventus engaged in a second capital increase in three years, they were obliged — as a company listed on the Euronext stock exchange in Milan — to disclose that they were subject to an inspection by Italy’s financial regulator, CONSOB, over “revenues from players’ registration rights”.
COVISOC, another watchdog charged with supervising the football industry in Italy, had passed a report to the Italian football federation (FIGC) highlighting 62 transfers from 2019-2021 for closer inspection.
Juventus were acquitted alongside 10 others — including current Serie A leaders Napoli — in April 2022. Paratici and Agnelli were among 59 individuals to also be cleared at that point, with the prosecutor’s case undermined by leaning on the widely-used but unofficial football website Transfermarkt as a benchmark for player valuations.
But a parallel investigation called Prisma, which had been launched by the public prosecutor’s office in Turin and brought allegations of false accounting, false financial statements and market manipulation, continued — and would bring further consequences.
A search and seize order allowed the Guardia di Finanza — a police force responsible for investigating financial affairs in Italy — to raid the club’s training grounds and offices, while 16 people, including Agnelli, then-vice president Pavel Nedved and Paratici, were placed under investigation.
The club issued a statement in October denying any wrongdoing but investigators alleged discrepancies when looking over their books.
An appeal from the FIGC’s federal prosecutor, Giuseppe Chine, for its case to be re-opened following that April ruling was initially turned down, but evidence gathered in the Prisma civil case prompted Chine to file another motion for the sporting case to be heard again.
The entire Juventus board, including president Agnelli, resigned in November and the FIGC case was re-opened the following month.
When the ruling came on January 20, the result was a penalty even greater than the nine-point punishment requested by the prosecutor.
What have Juventus said?
Juventus plan to appeal once the reasons for the ruling are published, which is expected 10 days after Friday’s decision.
Club lawyers have issued a strongly-worded statement in the interim, claiming the FIGC’s sanctions “constitute a clear disparity of treatment against Juventus and its managers compared to any other company or member”. They added: “We consider this to be a blatant injustice also for millions of fans, which we trust will soon be remedied in the next court.”
Before Sunday’s Serie A game against Atalanta, manager Massimiliano Allegri was grilled by reporters at his pre-match press conference.
“After yesterday’s events we have to regroup and think only of matters on the pitch,” Allegri said. “The legal proceedings concern the company and there will be an appeal. The standings say that at the moment we have 22 points and we have to try to earn results and make up positions. I’m convinced the players will do everything to get the most out of the situation.”
He also insisted: “I am, and will remain, the Juventus coach.”
Juventus’ president Gianluca Ferrero and chief executive Maurizio Scanavino addressed the players at training on Saturday, urging them to respond to apparent “injustice” by defending the club on the pitch. Captain Leonardo Bonucci, meanwhile, wrote on Instagram: “Juventus is like a seven-headed hydra. Cut off one of its heads and another one appears. It never gives up. And its strength is its culture.”
Juventus in crisis — the latest and the background
What does it mean for Italian football?
Juventus’ points deduction is bad for the club, and bad for Serie A — a league scrambling to make up the revenue gap lurking behind the abyssal difference in competitiveness between it and the Premier League.
The reputation of Serie A as Europe’s pre-eminent league was already in its twilight in 2006 when Calciopoli, a scandal about power and influence and how that was brought to bear, ended in a first-ever relegation for Juventus and the punishment of clubs, including AC Milan, with points deductions.
It damaged Serie A’s credibility as disillusioned fans stayed away and crumbling stadiums — as well as the threat of fan violence — made going to games unappealing.
Serie A has not had a Champions League winner since 2009-10, but from 2010 to 2018, Juventus served as a model club, opening a new revenue-driving stadium, fostering a winning culture and luring Cristiano Ronaldo as the ‘big three’ felt big again.
But optimism has faded in the near-three years since the pandemic hit. Serie A’s TV deal is worth less money than its predecessor (at $657million, about £530m, it is a ninth of the size of the Premier League’s one) and there is pessimism about the value of its successor.
A league is only as strong as its biggest clubs…
Is there more to come for Juventus?
Potentially, depending on the outcome of the Prisma civil case. But the first hearing for that will not be until the end of March and possible ramifications are not yet clear.
The FIGC is reportedly mulling over whether or not to open another case into “salary manoeuvres” — that is, how Juventus deferred wages — during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UEFA also opened its own investigation into Juventus in December for “potential breaches of club licensing and financial fair play (FFP) regulations”.
The governing body’s financial arm (CFCB) had previously reached a settlement with the club based on submitted information relating to the financial years ending in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. This acknowledged Juventus’ “failure to fulfil the break-even requirement” around FFP, but took into account the impact of the pandemic on clubs’ finances.
But UEFA confirmed in December that the CFCB investigation would focus on “alleged financial violations” highlighted by the public prosecutor and said it reserved the right to terminate the three-year transitory agreement “if new and substantial facts arise”.
UEFA’s severest penalties around financial breaches are disqualification from competitions in progress or exclusion from future ones.
UEFA has not yet issued a response to Friday’s developments.
What have Tottenham got to do with all this?
The bans issued to individuals by the court of appeal on Friday relate to Italian football — but the FIGC is petitioning UEFA and FIFA to adopt them across territories.
Tottenham have been seeking clarification on what Paratici’s ban means for them and whether the Football Association (FA) will be obliged to implement it in England.
Paratici was appointed as Tottenham’s managing director of football in June 2021 after 11 years as the chief football officer of Juventus. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said at the time that Paratici had “an outstanding track record in assembling competitive squads”.
There is absolutely no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Paratici while he has been working for Tottenham. Paratici, like Agnelli, has not made any comment on the investigation or the ruling.
The Athletic posed a series of questions to Tottenham — about the due diligence they performed when hiring Paratici, if there was an assumption he could be cleared, if they will launch an internal investigation as to whether similar practices have taken place at Spurs, and whether Paratici will now be suspended or sacked. They have declined to comment.
FIFA, anticipating an appeal process, has yet to receive an official application that bans be implemented beyond Italy. The FIGC would have to submit one to the governing body’s disciplinary committee under article 66 of its disciplinary code.
Could this affect Tottenham off the field?
This new development throws Tottenham further into turmoil in a stuttering season amid growing fan unrest at ENIC, the company that owns Spurs, and the question of head coach Antonio Conte’s future intensifying as well as potential future investment.
The Athletic took a deep dive last year into the long-term plans of Levy and ENIC, and has reported that representatives from Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) met with Levy to discuss the possibility of investing, although the club denied earlier this month that any talks had taken place over a minority stakes sale.
What is clear is Paratici’s importance at the top of Spurs’ football tree.
His relationships in the game have helped facilitate successful signings and though Levy is still involved in some recruitment operations, he has been a more elusive figure at the training ground, leaving day-to-day football matters to Paratici.
It simply can’t be business as usual for Tottenham.
What happens next?
Juventus must first await those official ruling reasons.
They will have a month to appeal to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), the country’s regulating body for sport.
CONI can only rule on whether or not the FIGC and court of appeal followed procedure correctly. If they are found to have done so, the punishment and bans will be upheld.
But this process is separate from the civil case and that first hearing for the Prisma investigation in March will also loom large.
The new Juventus board is a slimmed-down, five-member version, with accountant Gianluca Ferrero replacing Agnelli as chairman, but weighty problems remain and will do so for a while yet.
(Top photo: Getty Images)
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