On Friday, Juventus was condemned for transfer irregularities and landed 15 points by the Italian Sports Confederation, which pushed the decision from third place to the middle. Eleven former Juventus directors were also banned, including former president Andrea Agnelli (two years), former director of football Fabi Paratici, who is now at Tottenham Hotspur (2½ years) and playing director Federico Cherubini (16 months).
It’s a huge body blow for the Turin club, so here’s a Q&A to make sense of it.
Q: What did the condemned become?
A: It transfers by itself, it usually does a swap where there is little or no money but the club has drawn a benefit plan (on paper).
It’s magic amortisation. If you block another player’s club, say, “10 million salary”, you get to mention “10 million revenue”. But if it acquires 10 million players and signs, say, a five-year deal, you can spread the 10 million evenly over the life of the contract.
Q: So if I hire a guy for 10 million and another guy for 10 million, have I made 8 million? Ten million and two million out, because I spread the cost of 10 million over five years?
A: On paper, yes. There is no investment in life. And indeed, 2 million every year for the life insurance plan. But in the short term, in your mission, you can demonstrate a capital gain of 8 million.
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This is not illegal and as far as it goes each club in Europe does it in their own way. The problem arises when two clubs make engineers swam and inflate the value of the players involved. Publicly, the two acts separately, but in practice, they mirror each other and since no money changes hands, you can put whatever valuation you like on the player.
So in the above example, if you get a player for 100 million and you move the player to the same club for 100 million and then – presto! You made 80 million (and so has another club).
Q: Wasn’t Juventus already accused and cleared?
A: Yes, they and eight other clubs (Genoa, Sampdoria, Empoli, Pro Vercelli, Novara, Aternum, Parma and Pisa) were accused and eventually cleared. They have successfully argued that no one can put an objective value on a player and therefore no one can say that the transfer fee – or, more precisely, the valuation that is placed on the player’s wallet – is inflated. That is, the player what the market is playing, the court agrees with them.
Q: Why did he dig? It sounds like double jeopardy to me, to be tried twice for the same crime.
A: Prosecutors have successfully agreed to reopen the case because they say new evidence has emerged. That evidence comes from a separate investigation, a criminal investigation by Prism has learned, and it is alleged that not only does this exchange trick to create inflated valuations, but it was part of a systematic effort to cook the books. Oh, and according to wiretaps and written evidence (including hand-written notes), they knew what they were doing was not above board.
It is a criminal investigation because Juventus are listed on the Italian Stock Exchange and strict reporting is required – according to investigators, this is accounting fraud. Prosecutors of the sport did not have this evidence available to them when Juve and the other clubs cleared it, so the case was dismissed.
Q: OK, but if two clubs work together to cheat the books, shouldn’t they both be punished?
A: That’s a good question, and another element of Joue’s defense, with the fact that they had already been cleared. From the judgment of the courts it appears that the difference is the sheer number of such things that they think they have evidence – through the investigation of Prismata – that seems to be systematic and planned, and they knew that they were wrong. .
That said, there are other clubs that appear in the evidence collected by Prism, not only the original eight, which were purged, and could still be charged. Some of the interviewees suggest that they don’t even know what they’re doing above the charts.
Q: It still hasn’t arrived, though. If, as Juve say, no rule prohibits it, why should they be punished?
A: Well, there is no specific rule in the sports sphere. There is a definite rule about being transparent with members, especially if you are a registered club, even though it is a criminal matter.
The prosecutors also argue that they violated Article IV of the Italian FA Rules, which covers fairness and honesty, and Article 31, which covers false information. (This, Juve, as he would say, raises the question: if these things are not unlawful, how can they be reasoned with falsities?)
Q: What next?
A: Juve will wait for the “written reasons” supporting the argument in the decision. Then, they will hold an appeal with the Italian Board of Guarantee of Lusi, which is usually the highest court. They will not judge on merit, they will simply judge whether they followed the court’s rules and applied their rules correctly. They can either confirm the decision or win, they cannot, I say, give a reduced opinion to Juventus.
If the ruling stands, Juve have one last shot at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. But it will take time for his lawyers, because many investigations are being done.
A: Well, it is the Prism investigation itself that could theoretically lead to a custodial sentence. That not only covers the irregularities of the alleged systematic translation; It also covers the false system in the world of covid-19 sportsmen who have received cut wages.
Essentially, the players have been told to give up their salaries every four months, when in reality, according to the allegation, most of them are receiving wages. This caused Juventus to transfer costs from one period of time to the next.
In some ways, this research is more important because the criminal problem and Juventus are listed on the Italian Stock Exchange, which means that they have a stricter relationship. As a result, the Agnelli family replaced the entire board in November. This is a criminal investigation, and there are also recreational investigations to be done on top of that.
Then it happened that they are being investigated by UEFA for potential Financial Fair Play violations. If they ran into the FFP requirements in the wrong way in previous years, they could be sanctioned for that too.
Finally, Prisma is doing research about the exchanges uncovered with other trees that were not covered in this research because they did not know the evidence at the time. That could also lead to new charges.
Q: I don’t understand why, if the prosecution asked for a nine-point penalty, the trial ended up going with an even harsher sentence, docking them 15 points…
A: Yeah, that seems strange to me. The explanation, apparently, to the opinion that it has a significant impact on the club, enough to deny it, to say a place in the Champions League. When they were charged, I saw enough nine points. Then good events proceeded, and they moved the table, so that the court was harder.
I suspect that because there is no clear precedent or jurisprudence on this matter, they felt that there was nothing to prevent it from being more difficult. But it is certainly unusual for the judge to leave the prosecutors’ request.
Q: And what are the effects of pitch?
A: Not good. Juventus posted Serie A record losses of more than $250 million last year, breaking their record from the previous season of $210m. Some of that was obviously covid, but remember that the downsides come with the benefits of these dubious claims. If the penalty means they won’t be in the Champions League next season – and it’s going to be very difficult to score 15 points on the pitch – then that’s a further loss of income.
Oh, and Juve’s shareholders have already injected some €700m into new capital in recent years.
That’s part of the reason why Juve’s new president Gianluca Ferrero has signaled that he’s going to be more aggressive going forward. And that is likely to translate into a greater confidence of the youth of the academy and, of course, less spending.
Q: Last point for Tottenham fans: What happened to Fabio Paratici, who is now Spurs’ managing director in charge?
A: Well, he left those two appeals first, so you’re innocent until proven guilty. His ban will likely not prevail until those appeals are exhausted. If the ban stands, it also depends on whether FIFA and UEFA decide to extend the ban worldwide and that remains to be seen.
Of course, this whole thing doesn’t favor him, so it really comes down to the stake and how he feels about it if he’s cleared.