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By ESPN Staff

Italy match-fixing scandal appeals set to begin

ROME, July 21 (Reuters) -- Appeals in Italy's match-fixing soccer scandal begin on Saturday with four top clubs seeking to overturn the guilty verdicts handed down by a sports tribunal last week.

"As judges we have the power to revise the proceedings of the sports tribunal," Piero Sandulli was quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday.

"If there is evidence that the tribunal has decided not to take into consideration, we must understand why. This is not a new judgement, but a revision."

The appeals trial, which starts on Saturday at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) at Rome's luxurious Hotel Parco dei Principi, will examine the tribunal's verdict that Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio were guilty of conspiring with referees and linesmen to rig games during the 2004/05 season.

Juventus were stripped of their last two Serie A titles and ordered to start next season in the second division Serie B on minus 30 points. Fiorentina and Lazio were also sent down to Serie B with points penalties.

AC Milan avoided relegation, but were thrown out of next season's Champions League and ordered to start their next Serie A campaign on minus 15 points. All four clubs are appealing against the verdict, which was handed out a week ago.

Like the tribunal, the appeals trial will be closed to the public, with only the five judges, the defence lawyers and their clients allowed into the room in which it takes place.

Media will watch proceedings in a separate room via closed-circuit television.

Sandulli has said he does not know when the trial will reach its verdicts, though Italian media speculate they will arrive after the July 25 deadline set by UEFA for the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) to submit its list of teams for next season's Champions League and UEFA Cup competitions.

Should the appeals process remains unfinished on July 25, the FIGC commissioner Guido Rossi has said that Italy's list to UEFA would reflect the verdicts of the sports tribunal.

In that case, Juventus, Milan and Fiorentina would lose their places in the Champions League to make way for AS Roma, Chievo Verona and Palermo.