Latina still awaiting Serie B opponent

Latina must wait until Friday to discover where they will be playing on the opening day of Italy's Serie B season this weekend after the fixture list was announced with only 21 of the 22 participating clubs confirmed.

"Team X" is the name which has been given to the one remaining club whose participation this season hast yet to be confirmed.

The bankruptcies of Siena and Padova led to the situation of only 21 clubs being granted licences to start the new Serie B campaign. Padova were relegated anyway, but Siena had finished ninth, meaning the league was reduced by one.

Novara, who were relegated via the playoff last season, protested that they should be reinstated, clinching a partial success when their appeal to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) was upheld.

The CONI, however, declared it was not qualified to determine whether or not it would be Novara who would take their place along with the other 21 teams this season.

That is instead one of the competences of the Italian Football Association (FIGC), but it ruled that the Piedmontese club were ineligible for a reprieve due to financial irregularities in the past.

Instead, the FIGC is to pick which club will be admitted to the second tier of Italian football based on historic results, the size of the fan base, the conduct of the club and their fans in recent seasons, and their final position last season. According to the Italian media, nine clubs are in the running.

Juve Stabia, who had requested they be admitted to the league prior to Novara's appeal, are reported to be one of the candidates for what the Italians refer to as "repechage." They were also relegated last season, along with Reggina.

A decision will be taken on Friday, president of the Lega Serie B Andrea Abodi has announced, although that may not be the final word in the dispute.

Novara have already made it clear they will be appealing the FIGC's decision to exclude them from the running.

Whatever decision is taken, it will have a knock-on effect on the lower leagues with the third division, known as the Lega Pro, needing to react in turn to readjust its numbers.

Things become slightly more complicated there since the two divisions below Serie B are divided on a regional level.

Should a team from the north be elected as the 22nd club in the second division and a team from the south, such as Agrigento or Taranto, be the first candidate to earn a place in the Lega Pro, that could see another club from the southern division shifted north.

The Lega Pro fixtures have already been announced with the first round of matches all due to take place this coming weekend.

Another suggestion is to increase the league to 24 teams and strike off last season's relegations, meaning Novara, Reggina and Juve Stabia -- those most likely to protest should they not be admitted -- would all be reinstated.

A similar scenario occurred in 2012 when Vicenza were reinstated only days before the start of the season after Lecce were punished as part of the match-fixing scandal.

After that decision, the Lega Serie B introduced the new rules to block repechages in future, only for the CONI to overrule them this summer.

There have been widespread calls for the league to be reduced to 20 or 18 teams, with too few Italian clubs now able to sustain themselves financially.

An increase to 24, with no firm plans to reduce the league in the immediate future, would constitute a step back in the opposite direction.

As for Latina, they are sitting on their kitbags waiting to find out where they will be travelling to this Saturday.

They will discover only 24 hours in advance, although the result of that game may not ultimately count with appeals set to go on deep into the season.

The Lega Serie B has, however, offered them the opportunity to postpone the game once the opponent has been announced.