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Italy's match-fixing trial resumes in Rome

Written by: Staff
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ROME, July 3 (Reuters) Italy's biggest sports trial resumed today before a soccer tribunal in Rome's Olympic Stadium where four top clubs and 26 officials face match-fixing charges.

Champions Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio risk being forced out of the top Serie A league and European competition if found guilty of conspiring with referees to rig matches.

Tribunal President Cesare Ruperto, a retired judge, opened proceedings in the low ceilinged room below the home of AS Roma and Lazio with the words: ''I call each defendant in turn to name their lawyer or lawyers before the tribunal.'' The defendants, including top referees, the owner of Fiorentina Diego Della Valle and AC Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani, sat at long tables facing the judges in a scene resembling a school classroom.

Juventus is widely considered to be at the centre of the scandal, which erupted in May when phone taps showed its former general manager Luciano Moggi discussing refereeing appointments with football federation (FIGC) officials.

Ruperto had adjourned proceedings on the first day of the trial last Thursday to allow five Serie B teams hoping to be promoted -- Lecce, Messina, Bologna, Brescia and Treviso -- time to prepare their cases.

After the hype surrounding the start of the trial last week, proceedings resumed in a more low-ley atmosphere on Monday with more procedural objections by defence lawyers.

Two key defendants, Moggi and Juventus's former chief executive Antonio Giraudo, were absent and were represented by their lawyer, Paolo Trofino, among the first to speak.

He said the sports tribunal had no right to try Moggi because, having left his job at Juve and quit the world of soccer in the wake of the scandal, he was no longer a member of the FIGC.

Thousands of Juve supporters marched through Turin's streets on Saturday as a sign of continued support for the club.

All the accused have denied the charges of unfair conduct and sporting fraud, but if found guilty the clubs face penalties ranging from deducted points to relegation and being stripped of their titles. Individuals face bans.

The tribunal was originally expected to deliver its verdicts on July 10, the day after the World Cup final in Berlin, but some commentators say that date is already looking ambitious.

Those found guilty can appeal, but the whole process must be wrapped up by July 27 -- the deadline set by UEFA for the Italian Football Federation to submit the list of teams to compete in next season's Champions League and UEFA Cup competitions.

REUTERS PM HS1437

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