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Francis X. Rocca
Religion News Service

Vatican City – In an effort to “moralize” a sport recently beset by scandal, Italy’s Roman Catholic bishops have purchased a professional soccer team, announcing plans to raise ethical standards for players, executives and fans.
The Conference of Italian Bishops has acquired an 80-percent interest in AC Ancona, a third-division team in the central Italian city of Ancona.
“It’s a way to moralize soccer, to bring back a little bit of ethics into a sector that is undergoing a grave crisis of values,” said the archbishop of Ancona, Edoardo Menichelli, to the Turin newspaper La Stampa.
According to the team’s new ethics code, players who commit fouls will be required to perform volunteer work as part of their punishment, ticket prices will be lowered, team profits will go to support relief projects in developing nations, and spectators must promise not to insult rival fans or to display offensive banners.
Stadium violence at soccer games has been an increasing problem in Italy. In February, the death of a policeman at a match in Sicily led the Italian soccer federation to suspend play nationwide.
The sport has also been plagued by the bribing of referees. In 2006, Ancona’s former president was sentenced to jail in a game-fixing scandal that involved several of the country’s top teams.
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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