South Melbourne deny Pagniello involvement in A-League bid

A-League aspirant South Melbourne FC says they were unaware that the player agent who appeared at the unveiling of Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos, as a potential future coach, had been caught up in the 2015 Dirty Soccer match-fixing scandal in Italy.

But South Melbourne have questioned the agent's involvement with their cross-town expansion rival - and at the same time poured cold water on the prospect of Carlos actually joining the club, should they win one of two upcoming A-League licenses. 

Carlos arrived at the Lakeside Oval last year for an official South Melbourne press conference at which he announced his intention to coach the side. 

To his left sat Bill Papastergiadis, South Melbourne's head of Legal and Public Relations and the chairman of their A-League bid committee.

To his right was Morris - aka Maurizio - Pagniello, the Melbourne-born agent sanctioned by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) in its investigation into the Dirty Soccer scandal.

Also known as Calcioscommesse, the scandal involved players from dozens of clubs in the country's third and fourth divisions.

Like Antonio Conte, then manager of Siena, Pagniello was not found to have been involved in fixing a match, but to not have reported knowledge of such activity.

Following an appeal, he was 'inhibited' (banned) for a period of eight months on appeal by FIGC, and also fined approximately $50,000.

Despite reports in the Italian media claiming the Australian was one of 50 people arrested in May 2015 by police investigating the scandal, Pagniello said he in fact turned himself in for questioning.

No charges were laid against him. 

He has rubbished claims made by a leading Spanish paper a month prior to the press conference with Carlos, and said he is currently suing that paper.

Pagniello and his Genova International School of Soccer (GISS) have worked closely with South Melbourne in recent years, with the club posting many kind words for the agent and his academy on their website. 

One post - from 2015 - praises his efforts in helping the club form a partnership with Real Madrid.

In another post, now removed, his GISS academy is announced as a Premium Partner of South Melbourne for 2016, as they had also been in 2015. 

The 'strong link' forged with Pagniello and his academy was seen as the reason one of their youth players transferred to the Spanish top flight in 2015, and Pagniello was seen as pivotal in bringing Spanish striker Manuel Padilla Herrero from La Liga’s Leganes to the Lakeside Oval a year later.


However, South Melbourne says it has no links to Pagniello. 

"We dealt with Roberto Carlos' agent directly for his visit to Melbourne and we understand that Morris is just an acquaintance of Roberto Carlos," South Melbourne said.

"Morris has no involvement with our club or our A-League bid at all." 

The club said Pagniello, who also sat beside Carlos at an official dinner, acted as the Brazilian's translator while in Melbourne.

But Pagniello told The World Game it was he who arranged for Carlos to come to South Melbourne, and that Carlos has no agent. 

When asked to confirm the absence of a link with Pagniello, South Melbourne replied: "There is no link". 

However, they went on to say: "His company organised tours to Spain for some of our junior teams as he has done with many other clubs".

The club denied knowledge of links to match-fixing.

There is also no suggestion that Carlos was involved in any way in the match-fixing controversy. 

South Melbourne also noted that it "appears he (Pagniello) was an invited delegate of the Team 11 bid", the consortium from Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs also looking to gain an A-League licence, and attached photos of him at Team 11 events, including one with the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews. 

"You may wish to confer with Team 11 as this is more recent than our event with Roberto," South Melbourne said.

Daniel Andews

A spokesperson for Team 11 said Pagniello was an uninvited guest at one of their events.  

Meanwhile, the FFA said it will "look into suitability of bidders as part of the (expansion) process", and that the "fit and proper person" requirement which applies to all current A-League license holders will also apply to the competition's new entrants.

The closing date for FFA's Expression of Interest (EOI) for all expansion clubs is on Thursday 24 May.

As to the future of coach Carlos at the Lakeside Oval, South Melbourne seems to have lost interest. 

"The club has secured Sasa Kolman as coach of our (current NPL) senior team. Sasa has a Pro Licence, so the club is not exploring discussions with any other coaches," South Melbourne said. 

"We have not made any firm commitments for our A-League future at this time.

"Our focus is on the bid process and securing our position back on the national stage.

"When this happens we will consider our options for an A-League coach." 

Which makes you wonder why they called the press conference in the first place.

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5 min read
Published 21 May 2018 at 5:54pm
By Jack Kerr