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Juve court move threatens delays for Serie A

MILAN, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Italian football faces the prospect of a legal battle further delaying the start of the season after Juventus, demoted following a match-fixing scandal, announced on Monday they would be turning to a civil court.

A sports tribunal stripped Juventus of their last two Italian titles and demoted them to the second division Serie B where they will start next season minus 17 points.

The Turin club failed in attempt to regain their top division status via the Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) court of conciliation on Friday prompting the board to vote unanimously to turn to the Lazio regional court which has special rights to rule in sporting matters.

Juventus said in a statement that they would turn immediately to the Lazio court while 'evaluating, within the time consented, an appeal to CONI's court of arbitration'.

Three other clubs implicated in the scandal - AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina - all maintained their Serie A status but were handed points penalties for the upcoming season.

The start of the Serie A championship has already been put back by two weeks to Sept. 10 and if Juve were to be successful in getting the regional court to suspend their punishment there could well be a further delay.

In the statement Juventus said that their relegation had resulted in top players leaving their club and would have 'serious consequences' on their income.

But the club also appealed for their broader, historic contribution to Italian football to be taken into account.

'It (relegation) will also, above all, gravely damage the identity of Juventus FC, which in over a century of existence has contributed to writing the history of Italian football with a tradition of excellence which is alive and current as demonstrated by the nine Juventus players who took part in the recent World Cup final,' the club said.

Italy beat France in July's final in Berlin with Juve players on both sides.

Juve's demotion has led to a number of top players leaving the club, among them Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro, who has gone to Real Madrid and Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, sold to Inter Milan.

Coach Fabio Capello has left for Real Madrid and has been replaced by Frenchman and former Juve player, Didier Deschamps.

Juve's fourth-quarter revenues slumped by almost 23 million euros to 40.3 million euros.

The club said the uncertain outlook linked to the failure to take part in the Champions League and their relegation to Serie B would hurt results in the 2006/07 fiscal year.