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Match-fixing, sports fraud and naturalisation of athletes: the time for justice has come

Among our ILA law firm’s areas of expertise are match-fixing, sports fraud and the naturalisation of athletes. Experienced lawyers are able to deal with every legal case, even the most complex and thorny.

Furthermore, the exponential increase in episodes of match-fixing in sporting competitions of all kinds has made it imperative to intervene with a regime of precise rules. The subject has been regulated by law for almost 40 years, with the aim of making the results of a competition transparent and honest. More specifically, the discipline is intended to dissect the concept of ‘sports fraud’, in order to be able to identify without uncertainty the cases falling under this heading.

The doctrine, in this regard, states that the purpose of the provision in question is to prevent the irruption of clandestine activities in the world of sport and, therefore, the attribution of criminal liability to the conduct of fraud in sporting competitions; these behaviours, in fact, undoubtedly tend to damage the financial interests of the State and increase a source of sustenance for organised crime.

Let us, however, try to shed light on a subject that is too often silenced and even more often overlooked, including by the media.

Sports fraud: which cases are covered?

The term ‘sporting fraud’ covers all those acts and behaviour ‘aimed at altering the course or the result of the match or of a competition or at securing for anyone an advantage in the standings’ (Art. 6 par. 1 of the FIGC Sporting Justice Code).

More specifically, according to Law 401/89, the criminal offence of sporting fraud is divided into two cases:

Sports corruption: this is understood as the offer or promise of money or other advantages, whether material or moral, to any of the participants in a sports competition aimed at influencing the outcome of the competition. This also includes conduct, let us call it indirect conduct, aimed at achieving the same purpose by means of fraudulent actions designed to obtain a result other than that resulting from the correct and fair conduct of the competition. In both cases, it is worth pointing out that, in order for the offence in question to be said to have been committed, i.e. sporting fraud in the broadest sense, it is not necessary for the offer to be accepted and/or the promise to be accepted, nor is it necessary for the result of the competition to be altered in any way, “what is important is the existence of the periculum, consisting in undermining the fairness, probity and correctness of the sporting competition”. (Gip Trib. Roma 21/02/1992).

Free-form fraud: this other type of offence constituting the offence of sporting fraud is regulated by Article 1(1) of Law 401/89. It implies the performance of ‘other fraudulent acts aimed at the same purpose’. These acts, exactly as for the previous offence, must be identified in the offer or promise of money or other advantages to some participant in a sports competition.

In this regard, the Supreme Court has defined the offence of sports fraud as: ‘a free form offence, of pure conduct, where the threshold of punishability is anticipated with respect to the performance of an activity aimed at altering the conduct of the competition and that, consequently, the offence is consummated at the time and in the place where the promise or the offer of the undue advantage occurs, as well as the commission of all the other fraudulent conduct prodromal to the realisation of the main offence’ (Cass. Pen., sent. 36350/2015).

In order to understand this type of offence, however, it is useful to make further clarifications.

Specifically, this is a multi-offence in which the legal asset protected is the property interest and the freedom of self-determination. In this case, what must be preserved is the certainty and regularity of sporting competitions.

This offence is committed when the person, including logically ‘the athlete’, promises money or other utility or advantage to those who will take part in the same sporting competition. The doctrine on the concept of ‘athlete’ has always supported two partly different orientations.

According to a first orientation, the status of athlete is to be attributed to the person who is registered for the competition but also to the referee and match officials; this interpretation thus tended to exclude both coaches and officials.

The contrasting orientation, on the other hand, interprets the qualification of “participant” extensively, thus attributing the status to the persons actually present and involved in the tender.

It should also be pointed out that this offence should not be confused with the offence of fraud, since the latter does not involve any corruptive act and the fraudulent activity takes the form of the well-known “artifices and deception” that mislead the injured party.

It can be deduced from the above that this type of offence is complex and constantly evolving, so if one needs assistance in this matter, it is necessary to turn to specialised professionals.

As lawyers with expertise in sports corruption and free-form sports fraud, you can confidently rely on our law firm to provide you with the best possible defence.

Athletes and sports clubs: how to get legal assistance

This highly reputed associated law firm caters to all European professional and semi-professional sports clubs competing in any sporting discipline, as well as directly to athletes in need of legal assistance in all cases of sports fraud.

Following the notorious ‘Calcioscommesse’ scandal, indeed, our legal system felt the need to punish not only individuals but also sports clubs.

Currently, therefore, under Article 25 quaterdecies of Legislative Decree 231/200, sports clubs that have distorted the course of competitions are also punished, through the use of various sanctions outlined in quantum.

This is therefore one more reason to turn to the lawyers who have always dealt with sports fraud by protecting individuals and clubs involved.

Naturalisation of athletes: what is the situation in Italy?

Our lawyers are specialised in naturalisation of athletes in Italy and abroad, with a number of notable successes behind them.

For years our staff has been providing comprehensive advice on the application and renewal of the necessary permits granted by the Police Authorities to foreign players and athletes who play in official tournaments in Europe.

This is in order to overcome the limitation to which Italy is subjected: our country is, in fact, still relatively backward in the process of effective and complete integration of foreigners present on national territory and of citizens of foreign origin, while, in the case of naturalisation athletes are champions who, born and trained in sport in their country of origin, decide to represent their adoptive nation in Italy.

In general, naturalisation is a way of acquiring Italian citizenship by a foreign person who applies for it and meets certain legal requirements.

In our country, citizenship can be obtained after having resided permanently and legally in the national territory for at least 10 years, reduced to 4 years for citizens of an EU Member State. Furthermore, upon request, it is possible to acquire nationality by marriage with an Italian citizen after at least two years of residency on Italian territory or three years after marriage if residing abroad. The President of the Republic may also grant it for special merits.

Further requirements for obtaining citizenship are: an adequate knowledge of the Italian language, the existence of an adequate income to support oneself and one’s family, the absence of criminal convictions and social dangerousness.

Pursuant to Article 9, Paragraph 1 of Law 91/92, then, Italian citizenship by naturalisation is granted by decree of the President of the Republic, after consulting the Council of State, at the proposal of the Minister of the Interior.

It is easy to understand, therefore, how in light of these facts and these renewed requirements, the only real barrier is often represented by the rigidity of Italian laws on the acquisition of citizenship.

Unlike in other countries, in fact, Italian laws are, to say the least, complicated with regard to the acquisition of citizenship and this creates many problems for many sportsmen and women who are determined to become Italian.

The good team of lawyers at International Lawyers Associates has for years been involved in naturalisation programmes for non-European athletes who have direct Italian ancestry. These professionals have been able to achieve great results in the area of recognition of Italian citizenship, enabling the sportsman to be registered as a subject with European nationality. To date, indeed, thanks to our assistance there are many second-generation or new Italian citizens who carry the Italian flag on the podium around the world.

Let us open the barriers … let us open the doors to healthy and fair sport.