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Crisis-ridden Italian FA fails to elect president

From L:The three candidates to the presidency of the Italian Football Federation Damiano Tommasi, Cosimo Sibilia and Gabriele Gravina attend a meeting in Rome on January 29, 2018 © AFP / Andreas SOLARO

FIUMICINO, Italy, Jan 29 – The Italian football federation (FIGC) sank further into crisis on Monday after failing to elect a new president, two-and-a-half months after the national team crashed out of the World Cup.

After four rounds of voting amid chaotic scenes at a general meeting held in Fiumicino near Rome, none of the three candidates — the president of the Amateur League (LND) Cosimo Sibilia, the president of the third-tier Lega Pro division Gabriele Gravina and the head of the professional players’ union (AIC) Damiano Tommasi — managed to obtain a majority.

Tommasi finished bottom in the second and third rounds so could no longer win, with a fourth ballot requiring a simple majority to win.

In the final round Gravina received 39.06 percent of the vote, Sibilia 1.85 percent, with 59.09 percent blank ballots.

The failure to elect a president will almost certainly mean that the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) will take control of the FIGC.

CONI president Giovanni Malago had asked again on Saturday for the vote to be postponed, after previously saying that the vote should be held back for three months in order to allow Serie A to elect its president.

“The assembly failed to produce a result and we have to restart from zero,” said Pasquale de Lise, who presided over the meeting. “We spent a beautiful day together.”

This “beautiful day” which started with a standing ovation for previous president Carlo Tavecchio, who was forced to resign after Italy’s World Cup qualifying fiasco, was in fact one of absolute confusion, with negotiations in the elevators and toilets, as watching Italian journalists muttered “what a show…”

The four-time world champions’ shock elimination in a play-off against Sweden had led to demands for a revolution in Italian football from grassroots level.

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But this was not the message which emerged during the campaign, mostly centred on the question of candidatures and possible alliances, and which left very little room for programmes and proposals.

For many observers Monday’s fiasco was predictable. Gravinia, 64, and Sibilia, 58, the two candidates who weighed the heaviest in terms of votes in the election, were faced with the inflexibility of the younger Tommasi, a 43-year-old former Roma and Italy player, who refused any alliance.

The state of Italian elite football is now worrying, as shown by the inability of clubs to agree on a name for the presidency of the League and the difficulty of selling TV rights for Serie A.

Italian football is without a president for both the FIGC and top division Serie A and has no national team coach, following Gian Piero Ventura’s dismissal post-World Cup failure.

A budget of five million euros ($6.2m) has been voted by the FIGC in the hope of attracting a big name coach with possible candidates touted including Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte, Claudio Ranieri and Roberto Mancini.

The new coach will not be in place before Italy play their first matches since their elimination, friendlies against England and Argentina in March with Under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio stepping in on an interim basis.

But Italy should have a new coach before they start the UEFA Nations League in September.

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