CATANIA, Italy — Catania’s owner admitted to fixing five Serie B matches aimed at preventing the Sicilian club from relegation to the third division.
Antonino Pulvirenti also claimed to have made payoffs totalling 500,000 euros ($550,000) during his admission on Monday at a preliminary hearing. He was one of seven people arrested last week on sports fraud charges.
"The investigation still needs to be completed, but now it will all be much simpler," Catania prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said, adding that Pulvirenti maintains he didn’t bet on the games in question.
The five matches under investigation were played against Varese, Trapani, Latina, Ternana, and Livorno. Catania won the first four games in April, then drew 1-1 with Livorno on May 2.
Catania finished 15th in the 22-team Serie B, safely avoiding the bottom four relegation spots. The investigation could result in Catania being relegated to the fourth division.
"We are worried …. that a second-division club can fix five matches paying 100,000 euros per match. This is something that we would never like to see in football," UEFA secretary general Gianni Infantino said in Prague. "It’s clear that persons who fix matches have nothing to do in football. They have to be excluded from football."
Catania CEO Pablo Cosentino and former sporting director Daniele Delli Carri were also arrested, as were four betting agents and sports managers.
Pulvirenti announced he was resigning as Catania president after being arrested.
The five clubs named in the fixes are also facing inquiries, while players with Livorno, Varese, and Trapani were already under investigation.
Catania was relegated a year ago after eight consecutive seasons in Serie A, having matched a club record by finishing eighth in the top flight in 2013.
Pulvirenti’s low-cost airline, Wind Jet, went into crisis and had to suspend operations three years ago.