ROME: Italian football is “sick”, the country's deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini said on Tuesday.
“Football has been sick for sometime, everyone knows that and it is for a series of reasons,” Fini told RAI radio in reaction to a nationwide fraud investigation into the game.
His comments contrast with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's reaction to last week's raids by finance police on the offices of 51 Serie A and B clubs.
Berlusconi, who is also president and owner of AC Milan, described the investigation as a step towards a “police state”.
Fini said that clubs who had nothing to hide need not fear opening their books.
“I don't think that verifying the cleanliness of Italian football is a negative thing, in fact it is positive, above all for those who are honest,” said Fini.
“Personally, I believe that those who really have nothing to fear will not worry if the financial police ask them to verify their accounts.”
As well as the far-reaching fraud investigation, Serie A club Lazio are being scrutinised by Rome magistrates looking into the collapse of food company Cirio who owned the Rome club.
On Monday, judicial sources said they believed Lazio had paid the bonuses for their 2000 Italian title win out of cash illegally transferred from Cirio, which was owned by former Lazio president Sergio Cragnotti.
The Cirio probe is also looking into transfer deals between Lazio and Parma.
Parma is owned by dairy company Parmalat which is struggling to survive a multibillion-euro hole in its accounts which led to the arrest of its founder Calisto Tanzi and his son, former Parma football club president, Stefano Tanzi.
Fini is leader of the National Alliance, the coalition partner to Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia party. – Reuters