The disputed use of private agreements to award players three of the four months postponed due to Covid is the most dangerous front for the black and whites. And the players are also at risk
If the application for revocation of the sporting judgment on the capital gains line, which led to the 15-point penalty decided by the Federal Court of Appeal, is dated December 22, it is even earlier, on November 29, the opening of a new file – compared to the one judged in the spring – by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office on the basis of the 544 pages of the Prisma criminal investigation arrived from the Turin Prosecutor’s Office. With two focuses: insights into the so-called Juventus partnerships with other clubs, with a view to a possible violation of the “loyalty of sporting competition”, and above all on the accounting of salary manoeuvres. Since then they have been considered the most serious danger for Juventus.
A summary: when the championship stopped due to Covid, Juventus reached an agreement with its members on salaries, qualified in an official press release as a waiver of four months’ salaries, with a savings of 90 million. In fact, the waiver was a month’s salary, with private agreements (even for those who would have left the club) to recognize the other three salaries in the following seasons, thus effectively saving only 31 million and spreading the remaining 59 million over other years: hence the name of “salary maneuvers”, encompassing operations of different types spread over two seasons, 2019-20 and 2010-21.
In addition to what has also been reconstructed from the depositions of the players, the famous “Ronaldo’s secret card” represents one of the indicted “side letters”. According to the indictment, first of all the penalty which consequently accuses Juve of not having presented the market with a truthful situation of its finances, the budgets should have contained that forecast of subsequent expenditure. Which instead Juventus claims to have put later, once the payment has materialized. Accepting some of the findings of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the auditors, the club made some adjustments which led to the drafting of new financial statements, approved on 2 December by the outgoing board of directors and on 27 December by the shareholders’ meeting.
THE DISPUTED ITEM
At a sporting level, the use of “non-filed private agreements”, according to the accusation hypothesis of the Federal Prosecutor, would be in conflict with article 31 of the Code of Justice which regulates “Violations in management and economic matters”. According to paragraph 3 “the club that makes agreements with its members or pays them fees, bonuses or allowances in violation of the federal provisions in force, is punished with a fine ranging from one to three times the amount unlawfully agreed or paid, which may add the penalty of one or more points in the standings”. Although the issue in this case is evidently not that of the use of private agreements for any undeclared payments, it remains a practice outside the established discipline. But in an apocalyptic scenario, the risk for Juve may not end with hefty fines and further penalties.
THE HYPOTHESIS TO BE TESTED
It needs to be clarified, but for this we need to wait at least for the end of the sports investigation to see if the prosecution has concrete estimates to support this argument, if there is also a violation of paragraph 2 of article 31, which punishes with relegation “the company which, by falsifying its accounting or administrative documents or through any other illicit or elusive activity, obtains entry to a competition to which it could not have been admitted on the basis of the provisions in force”. It goes against common sense to imagine that a club with a 700 million capital increase over three years didn’t have enough resources. But this consideration is not enough to exclude a priori that the shifting of certain stakes to different years was decisive or not for returning to the parameters required for registration in the championship at the specific moment in which they were needed.
EVEN THE PLAYERS
Still article 31, paragraph 8, however, broadens the scope of responsibilities where it specifies that “members who agree with the club or in any case receive compensation, bonuses or indemnities from it in violation of federal regulations are subject to the sanction of disqualification for no less than one month”. Which means expanding the audience at risk also to players and agents who have signed those agreements. The timescale of 60 days from the opening of the file requires it to be closed by the end of the month, but it is probable that a request for an extension for the closure of the investigation will arrive, pushing the times for possible referrals towards February-March.
January 21st – 2.28pm
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