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Juventus mired in scandal again as Agnelli and board resigns

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Scandal. Titles. More scandal.

Successes and controversy are never far apart at Juventus, which is back in crisis mode following the resignation of club president Andrea Agnelli and the team’s entire board of directors following an investigation by Turin prosecutors into alleged false accounting.

The move comes 16 years after the “Calciopoli” refereeing scandal that saw Juventus, a record 36-time Italian champion, demoted to Serie B and stripped of two Serie A titles.

In between there was a record run of nine consecutive Serie A titles, five Italian Cup trophies and five Italian Super Cup victories.

The one big prize Juventus has consistently missed out on is the Champions League, with its only two titles in Europe’s premier competition coming in 1985 and 1996.

It’s pursuit of that coveted continental trophy was what led Juventus to sign Cristiano Ronaldo in a 100 million euro ($103 million) transfer from Real Madrid in 2018. The hefty transfer fee and Ronaldo’s 31 million euro ($32 million) salary created significant debts for the Turin club, though, which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turin prosecutors have apparently discovered more secret payments to Ronaldo that were not reported by Juventus, which is listed on the Milan stock exchange.

Ronaldo left Juventus for Manchester United last year.

“Juventus will continue to collaborate and cooperate with the supervisory and industry authorities, without prejudice to the defense of its rights in relation to the challenges raised against the company’s financial statements and press releases by Consob (the stock exchange’s regulatory body) and the public prosecutor’s office,” Juventus said in a statement announcing the resignations.

Agnelli, vice president Pavel Nedved and CEO Maurizio Arrivabene are among 15 people who could face a trial for alleged false accounting and irregularities in player transfers.

Prosecutors have been investigating since last year whether Juventus cashed in on illegal commissions from transfer and loans of players. The case is also exploring if investors were misled with invoices being issued for non-existent transactions to demonstrate income that in turn could be deemed false accounting.

The case involves player contracts, transfers and agent dealings between 2018 and 2020.

At the start of the pandemic, Juventus said 23 players agreed to reduce their salary for four months to help the club through the crisis. But prosecutors claim the players gave up only one month’s salary.

A shareholders meeting rescheduled for Dec. 27 was postponed to Jan. 18 to choose a new board.

While sports authorities initially dropped their inquiry into Juventus’ alleged false accounting, the Italian soccer federation prosecutor has since requested documentation from Turin authorities leading the investigation — meaning that Juventus could risk being penalized points in Serie A.

Juventus was already eliminated from the Champions League in a horrible start to this season, which also saw it win only two of its opening nine Serie A matches. But the Bianconeri won six straight in the Italian league before the break for the World Cup.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has so far survived the turmoil on and off the field and might even be given greater powers now in the sports department involving transfer decisions.

Serie A resumes Jan. 4.

In September, Juventus reported a record loss of 254.3 million euros ($246 million) for the 2021-22 financial year. It was the fifth consecutive year that Juventus reported a loss, and it was 44.4 million euros ($43 million) more than in 2020-21.

Agnelli was also one of the architects of the failed European Super League project, and was still clinging on to the effort along with fellow holdouts Real Madrid and Barcelona.

On Tuesday, the Spanish league issued a statement demanding “immediate sports sanctions” be applied to Juventus, noting that it had filed a complaint with UEFA in April for financial fair play breaches.

The shakeup at Juventus comes amid a busy week for the Agnelli family, which controls Juventus and Ferrari.

Ferrari announced Tuesday that is parting ways with Mattia Binotto after 28 years — four as head of the Formula One team — following a season of botched strategy calls that cost Charles Leclerc any chance to contend for the championship.

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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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