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Aug 2, 2012

Conte set to face trial

Juventus coach Antonio Conte has refused to negotiate a second plea bargain and will now face a full trial in the latest Italian match-fixing scandal, meaning he could be handed a potential 15-month ban.

This news follows the decision of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) judging panel to sensationally reject the three-month ban and €200,000 fine agreed with Chief Prosecutor Stefano Palazzi. The panel deemed that punishment "insufficient" after Conte was charged with failing to notify the authorities of two attempted fixes during the 2010-11 Serie B season when he was in charge of Siena.

Conte has, since the very first allegation, denied all knowledge of these events but was convinced that a plea bargain was the best course of action by his legal team due to the difficulty of clearing his name due to the odd nature of this kind of trial.

Because of the way the evidence against him was presented, the coach is in the strange situation of being deemed guilty until proven innocent and Palazzi has requested a ban of one year and three months as punishment.

This would mean Conte would be still be able to conduct his day-to-day duties but would be prevented from taking his place on the bench, entering the dressing room or giving match day interviews. Juventus President Andrea Agnelli broke the club's self-imposed press silence to condemn the whole process in a lengthy statement published by the club's official website.

The statement read: "We have realised the FIGC and its sporting justice system continue to operate outside of all logic for rights and fairness. For a long time, and with great sense of responsibility, Juventus and its employees have maintained a relaxed and consistent attitude towards the institution and respect for attitudes that straight away suggested a new attack was aimed at damaging the club."

"The results of these various charges show enormous contradictions and seem to protect exclusively those who committed sporting fraud. This is paradoxical and cannot be accepted.

"Yesterday's decision of the FIGC Disciplinary Commission to reject an offer of a plea bargain that had already been pondered and underwritten by the Prosecutor, is proof of the total inadequacy of the sporting justice system and the Federation within which it operates. I must again point out the incapability this structure has of interpreting the needs of modern professional football at the highest level.

"The respectability of individuals is put in danger and it is therefore up to them to make the final decision on which path to take, aware Juventus will support them in every court. It will be a complex and difficult season, but the concentration on performances on the field remains high with the objective to confirm ourselves as winners in May 2013."

The trial continues and is not expected to reach a conclusion until late next week.