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Barca hampered by archaic FIFA

Barcelona 21 hours ago
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Bayern MunichBayern Munich
VfL WolfsburgVfL Wolfsburg
6:30 PM GMT
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Jul 15, 2006

Angry fans take to the streets after verdicts

ROME, July 14 (Reuters) - Fans of the three top clubs found guilty in Italy's match-fixing scandal took to the streets on Friday after hearing the news that their teams will be playing next season in the second-tier Serie B.

Bringing to a head the biggest scandal in European soccer for decades, a sports tribunal in Rome sent Juventus, Fiorentina and Lazio down to Serie B with points penalties.

The fourth club involved, AC Milan, will start their campaign in the top Serie A division next season but with minus 15 points.

The biggest gathering of fans was in Rome, where about 400 Lazio supporters vented their feelings outside the hotel where the tribunal convened to announce its verdict.

In Turin, angry Juventus fans gathered in front of the club's headquarters to shout slogans against tribunal president Cesare Ruperto and AC Milan.

In Florence, Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli spoke of his 'rage' against the verdicts, but the team's supporters made a largely peaceful demonstration, blocking roads in the city centre.

The verdicts were the culmination of a scandal which started at the beginning of May with the publication of intercepted phone conversations between former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi and Italian Football Federation officials discussing refereeing appointments during the 2004-05 season.

Tribunal president Ruperto delivered the verdicts in an ornate conference room, hung with chandeliers, in the basement of the hotel in Rome.

Lazio fans had begun to gather in the street outside the hotel several hours earlier.

At first they limited their protests to anti-Juventus chants, but the mood turned uglier as the defence lawyers filed out of the hotel following the verdicts.

The lawyer representing former Juventus chief executive Antonio Giraudo, Luigi Chiappero, was surrounded and insulted by fans as he walked to his car.

Lazio lawyer Gian Michele Gentile was forced to remain inside the hotel by threats from the crowd.

'This is an unjust trial in the sense that Juve are the only guilty ones but - as usual - the rest of us are being made to pay for it,' 33-year-old Lazio fan Andrea Hotfield told Reuters.

'In this country football is founded on the fans' attachment to the shirt, and the clubs, the federation and the officials all take advantage of that.

'I don't know what we're going to do next, but I don't think these will be easy days in Rome.'