Atalanta deducted points over match-fixing

MILAN - Promoted Atalanta had six points deducted and their captain, former Italy midfielder Cristiano Doni, was suspended for three-and-a-half years on Tuesday by the Italian football federation (FIGC) over alleged match-fixing.

Retired former Lazio and Italy striker Giuseppe Signori was banned for five years from any football-related activity, the FIGC added in a statement, with the probability he will be blocked from any involvement for good.

They were among 17 individuals suspended for between one and five years and an equal number of clubs, all except Atalanta outside the top division, to have points deducted or be fined in the betting scandal.

The federation said Atalanta's punishment will take effect for the coming season, meaning the team will begin their first campaign back in the top flight with minus six points when Serie A kicks off at the end of this month.

Atalanta, now odds-on favourites for relegation, are appealing.

"We are counting on reducing the points penalty on appeal. We have strong hopes," Atalanta lawyer Luigi Chiappero told reporters.

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

Serie B team Ascoli will also have six points deducted while third division Alessandria Calcio were demoted.

The clubs and individuals were cited by the FIGC's sporting prosecutor following a criminal investigation into a betting scam which had initially centred on 18 games in the second tier Serie B and Italy's lower divisions.

Police said they had found evidence of an organised system among former and current footballers, sports betting operators and others to manipulate the results of a number of football matches.

They said bets worth tens of thousands of euros, and in some cases hundreds of thousands, had been placed on matches.

The investigation was triggered by a Serie B match in Cremona last season which aroused suspicions that led to a wider probe.

Fellow top flight side Chievo avoided any points penalty after paying a fine following a plea bargain earlier in the process.

Italian football had only just recovered from a 2006 match-fixing scandal which led Juventus to be demoted to Serie B.

Doni played for Italy at the 2002 World Cup but at 38 is now likely to retire.