Catania president arrested in relation to match-fixing investigation

The president of Catania football club, Antonio Pulvirenti, was among seven arrests made on Tuesday as part of the latest match-fixing investigation to hit Italian football.

Pulvirenti is accused of paying opposition players to let his side win matches last season in order to avoid relegation to the Italian third division.

Catania were relegated from Serie A to Serie B a year ago and spent much of the season struggling to avoid a second straight relegation before picking up some important wins to pull away from danger.

Recordings of telephone conversations involving Pulvirenti and some of his staff, as well as representatives of opposition clubs, have been gathered to form evidence that suggests some of those results were obtained by illicit means.

"At least five matches, if not six, were fixed with sums of money paid to opposition players," said the Catania state prosecutor Giovanni Salvi at a news conference on Tuesday. "Three further people are under investigation, but we are not releasing those names."

Catania's wins over Varese, Trapani, Latina, Ternana and a draw with Livorno have been announced as the matches under scrutiny. Specific players from those clubs, who are suspected of playing a key role in fixing the results, have also been arrested. No player from Catania is currently under suspicion.

If the accusations are proven, Catania face the prospect of automatic relegation to Lega Pro -- the third division. That was the fate that befell Genoa 10 years ago when it was proven that their president Enrico Preziosi had paid Venezia €250,000 to allow his side to win a crucial match for automatic promotion to Serie A.

Rather than going up, Genoa were forced down with their general manager Stefano Capozucca admitting it was "the darkest page in the history of Genoa."

The Lega Serie B is keeping a close eye on proceedings in Sicilia before taking similar action.

"Our first reaction is certainly one of great pain because we are working hard every day to make our league credible and to improve its reputation, so this news leaves us bewildered," said Lega Serie B president Andrea Abodi, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We need to react immediately and continue our work and multiply our efforts.

"I hope things get cleared up and that we know the truth as soon as possible and that there is a firm answer, if this happens to be confirmed, to make sure everybody understands that we are not willing to accept any form of settlement or agreement which ruins the sporting values of a competition."

Pulvirenti, who has been placed under house arrest, says that he is "extraneous" to the accusations and "convinced of being able to demonstrate total non-involvement," according to his defendant. The investigation continues.