Italian third-tier club Pro Piacenza have been docked eight points and their president Maurizio Pannella banned for six months for financial irregularities, although worse is expected to follow when the Lega Pro rule on Sunday’s farcical 20-0 defeat to Cuneo.
The sanctions, announced by the Italian FA (FIGC) on Monday, relate to infringements of league rules prior to Sunday’s debacle, for which the Lega Pro’s disciplinary committee are due to deliver a verdict on Monday.
They risk being thrown out of the league after fielding just seven players for a league fixture in the latest twist in a season overshadowed by financial problems and which has seen only part of the players’ wages paid since August.
Dario Polverini, who moved to Virtus Verona in January after walking out on Piacenza, explained to La Gazzetta dello Sport how serious the club’s problems are.
“A really strong squad was built in July and we went into our preseason training camp with high hopes,” he said. “At the end of August, the sporting director was fired because the president wanted to raise the bar and aim for [promotion to] Serie B.
“Ten new players arrived in the final days of the transfer window and we had a squad of 33 and a really high budget for this level. We won three and drew two of our first five games and were top of the league, then when the first deadline arrived on Oct. 15, the owners didn’t pay the wages.
“On the Friday, the president told us that the bank transfers had been sent and we took to the field, but on Monday we found out it was not true. Pannella got us all together and told us he was having problems with his business, but he promised he would sort things out.
“In fact, in November our wages for August arrived, albeit without the [social security and tax] contributions, so it was practically cut in half. At the deadline in December, the payments didn’t arrive, despite reassurances from the president, and the situation deteriorated.
“In the meantime, rumours started doing the rounds in the city and the owners of our apartments told us that if we didn’t pay [the rent], we would have to leave. A lot of us were forced to do this, even players with families and children.
“The club tried to put some up in hotel rooms, but you can’t live your life out of a suitcase in the boot of your car, being moved from one place to another. We decided to go on strike to put the president’s back to the wall, but he doesn’t care. We skipped one, two and then three games, and then there was the winter break.
“Nothing had changed when we came back and almost all of us decided to leave. It was surreal talking to [Pannella]. For him, the problems didn’t exist, not even when faced with the evidence.
“I ask myself how it is possible that a company who were sponsors of a Serie A club [Lazio] cannot pay the wages in Serie C. It doesn’t add up.”