Rome: Italian football faced a new scandal on Tuesday with the emergence of a multi-million-dollar match-fixing probe suspected to be orchestrated by 'Ndrangheta, the most powerful mafia syndicate in Italy.
Media reports said more than 30 teams from Lega Pro and Serie D, the third and fourth tiers of Italian football, were involved. Some 50 people were detained and more than 70 were placed under investigation including managers, coaches, players and investors, reports Xinhua.
The operation was coordinated by investigators of Catanzaro, a city in Calabria, the southern region where 'Ndrangheta has its roots. The operation was named "Dirty Soccer" and extended to a number of Italian cities including Milan, Naples and Ravenna.
"If the scenario is this one, then it is a dramatic situation," Renzo Ulivieri, president of the National Soccer Coaches Association of Italy (AIAC) said on Tuesday.
"Minor tiers are in very difficult conditions from the economic point of view, we all know what the situation of Lega Pro and Serie D is like. More controls are needed in the management of championships," he said.
In a press conference held in Catanzaro on Tuesday, investigators highlighted the seriousness of the match-fixing phenomenon in the Italian football which they said is "far from being solved."
They described the illegal activity as "very flourishing and pronged in foreign countries as well."
"Our investigation lasted seven-eight months and produced clamorous results," Catanzaro's chief prosecutor Antonio Vincenzo Lombardo said. He said the investigation was born from a wiretapping of Pietro Iannazzo, the head of a powerful 'Ndrangheta clan.
Lombardo said two match-fixing associations composed of Italians and foreigners including Serbians, Slovenians, Albanians and Maltese were trying to extend the scam also to matches of Italian higher divisions.
The Italian football has been at the centre of match-fixing scandals in recent years. A noted 2006 scam named "Calciopoli" extended to Serie A, Italy's first division football league. Current Serie A champions Juventus was the worst hit, getting stripped of two Serie A titles and demoted to the second tier, where it remained for a season.
Dozens of people were allegedly implicated in the Calciopoli scandal, but most of them were acquitted as their verdicts were declared timed out.
Earlier this year, jail verdicts against former Juventus general director Luciano Moggi and ex-CEO Antonio Giraudo were cancelled by the Italian supreme court.