Today’s Federal Court of Appeal verdict highlighted just how shaky the entire match-fixing and betting scandal has been. Justice was served in seeing Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava returned to Serie A after six-month bans, while Napoli can now resume their Scudetto challenge without that two-point penalty. The important thing now is that we can use this case – and that of Antonio Conte – to go forward and stop it happening again.
In case you haven’t been keeping track of the trial, Napoli and its players were convicted not of match-fixing, but of a failed attempt to consider a fix by the third-choice goalkeeper who never actually played that season. Matteo Gianello claimed he approached teammates Cannavaro and Grava to see if they’d be interested in fixing a game against Sampdoria in May 2010. He said he was turned down point-blank and never took the matter any further. The defenders insist Gianello never mentioned anything to them.
Gianello’s testimony was taken as “credible” despite the fact he repeatedly changed his version of this meeting he had with Cannavaro and Grava, adjusting the time, date and venue of this approach. It was still considered to be enough to ruin the careers of two players and potentially wreck a club’s title ambitions.
We’ve been through this before with Conte at Siena being the most glaring example of a long-running trial that is far from over. The basic problem with the Italian sporting justice system is that you are guilty until proven innocent, which in most cases is pretty impossible to do. This is one person’s word against another and if that version of events can be changed several times and still remain ‘credible,’ then it becomes even more arduous a task to show your innocence.
I hope that this verdict can finally open a new chapter for the Italian system, introducing reform or even just a method of reading the existing evidence so that guilt must be proved rather than the other way round. Otherwise we’ll see more players like Cannavaro and Grava have their careers torn to shreds.