ROME - Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has unveiled plans to launch a task force to counter corruption in football in the wake of match-fixing allegations that led to the arrest of 16 people last week.
The task force, which is set to meet for the first time next week, will include Interior Ministry politicians, finance police and administrators from various sporting governing bodies.
"We have analysed what has taken place in the last few days in football betting and we have tried to work out ways of preventing it occurring again," Maroni told reporters on Friday.
"We have therefore decided to create an investigative unit with the purpose of collecting information and assessing any signs of foul play emanating from bookmakers and others," said Maroni who suggested a similar body be formed at European level.
He was speaking after a meeting with Giancarlo Abete, president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), and Gianni Petrucci, Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) president.
"We can't rule out the hand of organised crime behind the illegal activities. I believe this to be an appropriate reaction by the world of sport and government to what has taken place."
Last week, Cremona's flying squad headed a nationwide police swoop that resulted in the arrest of 16 people, including former Italy and Lazio striker Giuseppe Signori, accused of belonging to a betting ring after a six-month probe termed 'last bet'.
Another 28, including Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni, were under investigation with allegations centring on 18 games from Serie B and Italy's lower divisions.
Doni has denied any wrongdoing.
Abete, who launched a sporting judicial inquiry into betting allegations involving Atalanta and Siena, who have just been promoted to Serie A, welcomed the minister's intervention.
"It is an immediate response to a worldwide phenomenon," he said. "From the recent dark days, a new institutional element could emerge as a result."
Petrucci also praised the government initiative.
"It's a difficult time for sport. We can't deny it," he said. "Betting goes beyond sport but today knowing that the Ministry of the Interior is with us gives some relief. We feel responsible and will offer all the help we can."
The latest allegations of corruption in Italian football follow the Calciopoli scandal of 2006 which revolved around securing favourable referees rather than betting.
Juventus were demoted and stripped of their 2005 and 2006 titles by the sporting courts.
In the criminal trial related to the affair, which has dragged on for years, prosecutors have said former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi should face five years and eight months in jail for his involvement if he is found guilty.comments