Roberto Fabbricini

Massimo Percossi/ANSA via AP

Chaos and ‘absurdity’ rule in Italy’s lower divisions

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ROME (AP) FIFA president Gianni Infantino labeled the chaos in Italy’s lower divisions an “absurdity.”

And it’s hard to argue with him.

Two months into the season, several clubs still don’t know which division they will be playing in and some teams have hardly played at all.

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The disorder is highlighting the failure of Italy’s complicated sports justice system.

On Wednesday, a regional appeals court overturned an Italian soccer federation decision from August that had reduced Serie B from 22 to 19 clubs.

The earlier decision by the federation’s emergency commissioner Roberto Fabbricini was made following the bankruptcies of Avellino, Bari and Cesena.

Virtus Entella, Novara, Pro Vercelli and Ternana – the four clubs relegated at the end of last season – plus Catania and Siena – which each lost in the Serie C playoffs – are all arguing for a place in the second division.

But it remains unclear which clubs might now be promoted or re-instated, or if the appealing teams might accept financial payoffs instead.

Eight rounds of Serie B have already been played among the existing 19 clubs, with one team sitting idle each weekend.

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Meanwhile, Entella has played only one game in Serie C, which is also known as the Lega Pro, while it awaits the outcome of its appeal.

Novara, Pro Vercelli, Ternana and Catania have also played fewer matches than the norm in the third division.

“It’s not tolerable that some squads still don’t know what league they will play in,” Infantino said at Monday’s election of Gabriele Gravina as president of the Italian federation. “It seems to me a real absurdity.

“Why does Italian football need outside help to resolve problems that can be resolved internally?” Infantino added, referring to the appeal to an ordinary (non-sports) court.

Fabbricini had been running the federation since February, after a failed vote to find a successor for Carlo Tavecchio, who resigned following Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup nearly a year ago.

There were also emergency commissioners of the federation following the 2006 Italian match-fixing and refereeing scandal known as “calciopoli.”

“Four and a half years of emergency commissioners in the last 20 years seems like an absurdity to me,” Infantino said. “There needs to be a strong federation now.”

The decision on how to resolve the situation will now likely be made by Gravina, who was previously the Serie C president.

The matter was taken to a regional appeals court after the clubs’ cases were rejected by multiple sports justice outlets.

The appeals court in Rome ruled that Fabbricini did not have the power to alter the number of squads in Serie B.

“The government didn’t have any desire to and no interests in intervening in sports justice,” government undersecretary and sports delegate Giancarlo Giorgetti told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “We were forced to take an initiative because nobody was meeting the interests of the clubs.”

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Luigi Di Biagio takes over as Italy coach on caretaker basis

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ROME (AP) Under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio was promoted Monday to take over Italy’s senior national team on a caretaker basis for friendlies against Argentina and England next month.

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The Azzurri have been without a coach since Gian Piero Ventura was fired following a playoff loss to Sweden in November that ruled Italy out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Italy plays Argentina in Manchester, England, on March 23 then faces England in London four days later. The Azzurri’s next competitive fixture isn’t until Sept. 7 against Poland in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

The 46-year-old Di Biagio played for Italy as a midfielder at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

Roberto Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti and former Italy coach Antonio Conte are among those being considered for the full-time job.

Roberto Fabbricini, the Italian football federation’s emergency commissioner, mentioned Mancini as a candidate last week.

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On Monday, he also mentioned current Nantes manager Claudio Ranieri as a possibility.

“Ranieri is no less appealing than Mancini. He’s got the credentials,” Fabbricini said. “But we need to be attentive from a procedural point of view. Many of these coaches are currently under contract. Either they free themselves up or it will be difficult to ask them to consider the job.”

Ranieri coached Leicester to an improbable English Premier League title in 2016.

Fabbricini also suggested that many current Serie A coaches could be considered – perhaps referring to Massimiliano Allegri at six-time defending champion Juventus.

“It’s Alessandro Costacurta’s job to get in contact with the candidates,” Fabbricini said, referring to his vice commissioner and the former AC Milan and Italy defender.