In response to the latest allegations of match-fixing in Italian soccer, the country's Prime Minister Mario Monti has offered an alarming recommendation. According to Elisabetta Povoledo of The New York Times, Monti suggested Tuesday that the sport should be "completely suspended" in the country for two to three years.
With all due respect to the Prime Minister, this is a misguided plan.
The degree to which shutting down the sport would help alleviate the corruption problem is debatable.
What cannot be questioned, however, is that the proposal would do more harm than good. The innocent would be punished, a legitimate economic impact would be felt and the fans would be robbed of the game they love.
It is certainly true that corruption has plagued Italian soccer for decades, and the nation is just six years removed from its last major scandal: the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, which sent Juventus to Serie B and cast a black eye on the game.
Prior to Calciopoli, there were the Totonero scandals of the 1980s, and the sad truth is, today's controversy will almost certainly not be the sport's last scandal.
There will be no easy solutions to the problems that plague the sport in this area, but grinding the sport to a complete halt will not fix them and will instead do tremendous harm.
The Times report states that fourteen suspects have been taken into custody. With 20 teams in Serie A, and another 22 in Serie B, this is an incredibly small fraction of the people involved with soccer in Italy.
Suspending the game would thus punish countless innocent individuals.
In addition to players and coaches who would be rendered inactive, thousands of stadium and other club employees would be effected as well. Then there is the matter of those not directly employed by the clubs, such as sponsors, shop and restaurant owners, and transportation personnel, who receive a significant boost in business thanks to soccer.
Lastly, Monti's plan would punish the fans of the game, who have remained loyal to the sport in spite of the many scandals which have tainted it. Italian fans are among the most passionate in the world, and to deprive millions of the game they love because of the actions of a few guilty people seems unjust to say the least.
In order for Italy to stamp out corruption in its most beloved sport, hard work and diligence will be required from those inside and outside the game. However, suspending the sport completely should not be an option.
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