Explaining Serie B's Courtroom Drama (Sort Of)
If ever a national association and its leagues needed a cold glass of water thrown in their face, it’s the FIGC (and, by extension, Serie B). The paralysing effect of its steadfast application of the ‘rules’ has seen the Serie B season start with only eighteen teams, two of which started the season playing in stadiums hundreds of kilometres from their home (Feralpisalò and Catanzaro). The daft outcome owes much to stadium regulations and typical bureaucratic red tape.
Lecco, champions of last season’s Serie C playoff, were rewarded for their triumph with expulsion from the league. Their crime? Late submission of paperwork to temporarily play at Padova’s Stadio Euganeo, while their own ground, Rigamonti-Ceppi, was brought up to league standards.
While I know very little of the realities of the requirements or how unfeasible it might be to play in an ‘unfit’ stadium, unless the place is unsafe, just get on with it. Most of us grew up playing/watching/coaching in the street or a local park, so let’s not get stuffy about media facilities or comfy dugouts. The toilets at San Siro look like they’ve been bombed, so it’s daft to suggest that the imperfections of Lecco’s quaint little home is enough to nullify their sporting achievements.
Thankfully, TAR (Tribunale amministrativo regionale) found in favour of Lecco after Perugia fought to steal Lecco’s spot, having been relegated from Serie B. This means that Lecco can play in Padova, some 150 miles (230km) from home, which is still better than letting Perugia off the hook after a whole year of being terrible at football.
Perugia couldn't afford their own lightbulbs, but a court were willing to let them take Lecco's place.
There were also reports that Perugia would need to borrow floodlights from Empoli, as the state of theirs was unacceptable. They can’t win enough games or find the right light bulbs, but a Lazio-based court found in favour to let Perugia back into the league ahead of Lecco, before someone at TAR saw sense and superseded the Lazio judgement.
Confused yet? Yeah, me too. It gets worse. Lecco, thanks to the FIGC’s twiddling of thumbs, must wait until the Council of State, the last stage of administrative justice, meet on 29 August to formally confirm Lecco’s place; or they could pull some other wild (but not unimaginable) courtroom drama stunt and allow Perugia back in…or even just ring around the clubs in Serie C and see who fancies a season in B, because why not? First come, first served. Seriously though, it does seem like Lecco should be allowed into Serie B, starting in Gameweek 5 after the September international break. Great, moving on.
Now, Reggina or Brescia? You probably don’t care, unless you support Reggina or Brescia. Reggina are totally skint; bankrupt despite reaching last season’s Serie B playoffs. In July, the club was sold to a Roman entrepreneur with the backing of a London-based hedge fund.
However, Manuele Ilari, the new Reggina owner, has since confirmed that the takeover was only valid in the event that the club won its appeal against expulsion from Serie B, a decision enforced as a result of bankruptcy. Given the incredibly low probability of this happening, Ilari is now planning to ‘sell’ the shares to the city council of Reggio Calabria.
Brescia were bottom and had burned through four coaches by late February.
Now, if I find that annoying, which I do, I can only imagine how frustrated a Reggina fan might be. Watching Brescia (probably) take your place in Serie B as a result of some legal wranglings that were nothing to do with you, now that would tip me over the edge. Brescia, bottom of the league last season for long periods and having burned through four coaches by late February, were beaten in a playout by Cosenza and relegated to Serie C.
This sparked a pitch invasion from their ultras, whose actions saw the game abandoned in the dying moments and Cosenza awarded a 3-0 win. This team, owned by the wildly erratic Massimo Cellino, have done nothing to warrant a place in B and will almost certainly be relegated should their appeal to take Reggina’s place be granted.
Incredible stuff. Incredible, confusing stuff. So, the state of play is that the final decision on the two remaining Serie B spots will be made on 29 August, with the likelihood being that Lecco and Brescia will take them. Reggina will probably restart in Serie D, if they’re lucky, but may even end up in Eccellenza (fifth tier), like recently bankrupted Siena have, falling from Serie C/B.
The main takeaways from this are: a) Gabriele Gravina, head of FIGC and former Castel di Sangro president (and definitely not dodgy guy), should resign; b) the rules are wholly unfit for purpose and counterproductive; and 3) the judicial system in Italy (and everywhere, really) moves at 0.5 speed.
Sort it out, idiots.