Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli seeks legal action over Juventus bias claim
Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli and the head of the Italian Referees' Association (AIA) Marcello Nicchi are both to take legal action against a journalist who criticised his appointment for the top-of-the-table Serie A clash between Juventus and Napoli on Saturday evening.
Rizzoli has since been forced to pull out of the fixture after picking up a calf tear, and Daniele Orsato will instead officiate the fixture, but journalist Paolo Liguori, director of TGCom, told Mediaset television on Monday night that picking Rizzoli was a mistake.
"I don't have any evidence, but I have plenty of data which says that when he makes mistakes, those few times, then he always does it in one direction," Liguori said. "He's not the right referee at the Juventus Stadium for this match."
The following day, Liguori went even further by telling Naples' Radio Kiss Kiss that "it is mathematically certain that there will be a refereeing mistake in Turin in favour of Juventus."
He added: "You can say that I am a crazy visionary, but there are few things that are certain in life and this is one of them. If they want to prove me wrong, then they should appoint Orsato, but by appointing Rizzoli, there is a certainty that there will be errors."
Rizzoli, 44, refereed the 2014 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina and has been on the FIFA referees' list since 2007. He has been voted Italy's best referee each year since 2011 by Serie A footballers.
Liguori's comments have been condemned by Nicchi and the AIA, which released a statement confirming it will be seeking damages.
"Marcello Nicchi has appointed AIA solicitors to promote any suitable legal action to defend the image and reputation of the whole refereeing category and of its individual components against the journalist Paolo Liguori, who made the aforementioned comments, and against anybody else responsible for similar defamatory affirmations," read the statement.
"The [FIFA] referee Nicola Rizzoli, on a personal level, has also sought legal advice."
In the past, Rizzoli was criticised for ruling out a Catania goal for offside in a 1-0 defeat to Juventus in October 2012, while former Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti criticised him for not giving the Nerazzurri a penalty in their 2-1 defeat to the Bianconeri in March 2013.
In March 2012, however, he ruled out a Simone Pepe goal and did not give a penalty to Juventus in their 0-0 draw with Genoa, and another controversial penalty claim which was not given to Juve allowed AC Milan to win a November 2012 fixture between the two sides.
In a response to the threat of legal action, Liguori told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "I don't understand why the referees want to sue me. I have nothing against Rizzoli. He's the best referee, even if I do remember a few minor errors, but maybe I'm wrong.
"All I did was express an opinion. In fact, the AIA should thank me because I supported the appointment of Orsato for Juve-Napoli. I'm delighted that he has been chosen. He's a great referee and with him, it's going to be pure sport."
Orsato will officiate the game between the top two teams in Serie A on Saturday, with Napoli currently two points clear of their hosts.