Giuseppe Postiglione, President of third division Potenza (Lega Pro Prima Divisione) is among nine people to have been arrested on Monday due to allegations of match fixing, illegal betting and possible links to organised crime. Although he has not been charged police are supposed to have hard evidence that they hope will lead to a conviction.
FIFA have called an emergency meeting on December 2 to discuss the 200 hundred allegations of match fixing in Europe’s lower leagues. Information has already been released that none of the major European leagues like England’s Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s La Liga or Germany’s Bundesliga are involved – a relief to Italy’s governing body after the extent of the 2006 ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal that rocked Italy’s top flight.
Potenza S.C. are a third division Italian club playing in the Lega Pro Prima Divison who play their football at the 6,000 capacity Stadio Alfredo Viviani. Potenza itself lies in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata and only has a population of 70,000, this back water you would imagine would be as far away as possible from the match fixing scandals that have hit Italy, non more recent than ‘Calciopoli’ in 2006 that shattered the supremacy of Italy’s top clubs. ‘Calciopoli’ in the end saw Milan deducted 8 points, Fiorentina 15, Reggina 11, Lazio 3 and of course the main perpetrator Juventus were relegated to Serie B and deducted 9 points. This toppled the serial league winning Juventus and Milan and installed Inter as Italy’s top club. The allegations that face Potenza will not drag Italian footballs top flight into disrepute but it will certainly have the same impact for the 70,000 inhabitants who will surely see their local side being punished for its actions.
Giuseppe Postiglione is the President of Potenza, and at 27 is nicknamed the ‘boy president’. His take over of the club in 2006 put the club on the map as the then 24-year-old was deemed too immature and inexperienced to run a club in the Italian semi -professional divisions. This is a view that may now be confirmed as the charge is outlined as organized sporting fraud related to betting on matches from 2007 to 2009. He had allegedly got his associates to fix certain matches and then began betting on the games along with Luca Evangelista, sports director of Pro Vastese – “Where it was impossible to fix a result in a quiet way, the gang rigged games with violence and intimidations,” a police spokesman has said.
This link with organised crime will do nothing to help the ‘boy presidents’ plea especially when the investigation will be conducted by anti-Mafia prosecutor Francesco Basentini. The main game being talked about in the press at present is a second division clash between Ravenna and Lecce in 2008. This game alone saw Giuseppe Postiglione rake in 86,000 Euros, a figure that if won on all the games that are alleged would make a rich man a lot richer. With nine people being detained it looks as though the investigation could unveil a much larger operation that could consume many more presidents and managers. As for hard evidence it seems as though the authorities are confident. Lead prosecutor Giovanni Colangelo has been quoted in saying that “We have found clear evidence, which shows that threats and bribery took place in order to manipulate the results of games” This clearly indicated the work of organized crime and this will mean that Potenza will find it almost impossible not to be punished especially since now 20 new people are under investigation for similar games.
FIFA have, especially since the 2006 ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal kept a very close eye on European football, especially in Italy in order to prevent match fixing and illegal betting taking place, and have in place many systems to try and eradicate this from the game. After 2006 the punishments given to Juventus and the likes have been deemed by some to be harsh, although the initial punishments were far worse, and there is perhaps a bigger camp that would have supported these being in place.
With the world of internet betting, where you can bet on first man sent off, number of corners, how many times a player will be offside it is harder to regulate football. Gone are the days where people try to fix entire matches as this would involve too many people and is easier to expose. FIFA therefore do not have an easy job and it is to their credit that they have exposed Potenza. Many people will be outraged that this is still happening but the question should be how do they deal with this? This is why the punishments given to Potenza will be worth watching as to how far FIFA have gone to eradicate this. Unfortunately, the real losers are the fans of this small provincial club. As if life is not hard enough watching Lega Pro Prima Divisione football in the first place without having this to contend with as well.