ROME: Only in Italy. The run-up to a new Serie A season wouldnt be the same without a scandal but this one threatens to overwhelm it.
With just 28 days to go before the start of the new campaign, the full line-up for the 20-team division is still incomplete.
Seventeen clubs have had their registrations rubber-stamped but three places remain vacant following the leagues decision to expel Genoa, Torino and Messina.
Serie B champions Genoa were found guilty of match-fixing and thrown into the Third Division while Torinos application was rejected for giving false money guarantees to the tax authorities.
Messinas crime was submitting false information to COVISOC, the sports financial regulator.
In a desperate attempt to win back their Serie A places, the three disgraced clubs have taken their cases up with the Regional Administrative Court (TAR), who will hear their appeals next week.
We will appeal to every court and I hope the judges listen to us, said Genoa lawyer Alfredo Biondi.
If the TAR uphold the leagues decision, the mayhem is likely to continue.
Bologna, who lost their relegation play-off last season and should be playing in the Second Division, could now be reinstated in Serie A.
However, Messina are ready to challenge Bolognas expected reprieve and are preparing their lawyers for an ugly battle in the law courts.
On Thursday, the Sicilian club insisted their books were balanced and accused Bologna of tax evasion and masking debts.
We deserve our place in Serie A and for the first time our accounts are in the black, said Messina president Pietro Faenza. We have strong doubts about the regularity of Bolognas registration into the championship from the season 2002-03.
Meanwhile, Treviso and Ascoli, who finished fifth and sixth respectively in Serie B, are expected to be promoted to the top flight.
Perugia finished above them both in fourth place, but they too were found guilty of fraud.
It is not the first time that the build-up to a new season in Italy has been overshadowed by scandal.
The start of the 2002-03 campaign was postponed for two weeks because of a row over television rights.
And there was further chaos the following season when the league decided to expand Serie A from 18 clubs to 20 less than two weeks before the start of the season in the hope of settling a row over relegation issues in the lower divisions. AFP