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 Thursday, August 1, 2002 14:32 EST

Club may go out of business if funding isn't found


MILAN -- Former Italian champions Fiorentina has been refused a place in Serie B for next season and is facing bankruptcy.

Italian Football League president Adriano Galliani said the only chance the city of Florence has of maintaining a presence in professional football is if a new club is formed and is granted a place in the third or fourth division.

"The old Fiorentina doesn't exist anymore and it is vital that a new club is born to represent Florence," said Galliani.

Florence city council said on Thursday evening that it had done exactly that and formed a club called Fiorentina 1926 Florentia with the city's mayor Leonardo Domenici as the first president.

But it remains to be seen if the new venture will gain enough financial backing to stand any chance of being admitted to the lower divisions.

Troubled Fiorentina, relegated from Serie A last season and in administration, has reported debts of around 22 million euros and the federal council of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) met on Thursday to discuss what level the team will be allowed to play in next term.

A spokesman for Fiorentina, who was playing Champions League football just three seasons ago, told Reuters that the club had not been granted permission by the council to play in the second division, Serie B, next season.

"We are not in Serie B, that is official. At the moment the council is looking at hypotheses about us playing in Serie C," said the spokesman.

Three Serie C clubs face uncertain futures -- Anastasia, Fasano and Lecco who were not registered for their leagues due to their financial positions.

Fiorentina president Vittorio Cecchi Gori promised he would find the necessary cash before Thursday's deadline but so far there has been no sign of the capital injection needed to save the club.

Galliani confirmed that Ternana, who finished 17th in Serie B last season will have its relegation overturned and stay in the second division in place of Fiorentina.

FIGC president Franco Carraro said he had asked the federation to assess whether it is possible to leave the door open for a new club.

"Today is a terrible today because a club with great tradition, a real part of Italian football has not been able to be signed up to the championship," said Carraro, "It is a defeat for all of us.

"It would be a mistake to start laying blame at this moment and I have asked the council to weigh up all the possibilities. There is a reasonable possibility they could be included in Serie C2 but it is less easy to imagine C1," he said.

The club has a number of international players, such as Portugal's Nuno Gomes, Yugoslav Predrag Mijatovic and Italy international Enrico Chiesa, who in normal circumstances could have been sold to pay off the debt.

But, with many Italian clubs suffering from a shortage of cash, the transfer market is quiet and the knowledge that the players would be available on a free transfer should Fiorentina go bust has also acted as a disincentive to potential buyers.

Last season's relegation was only the second time since World War Two that the Florence club -- Italian champions in 1956 and 1969 -- has gone down to Serie B.

Just three seasons ago the club was playing in the Champions League, beating the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United while being coached by current Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni and led on the field by Argentine striker Gabriel Batistuta.

Film producer Cecchi Gori had to sell many of the club's top players merely to compete in Serie A last season, with Italy goalkeeper Francesco Toldo and Portugal midfielder Rui Costa following Batistuta out of Florence.

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