Corriere dello Sport (Guido D’Ubaldo) Roma’s grounds for appeal have been considered admissible, and their appeal will be heard at 10am tomorrow [9am UK time] at the court of appeal for sports on via Campania. General director Mauro Baldissoni and lawyer Antonio Conte (an expert on sports law, who drafted the letter of appeal) will represent the Giallorossi, and Kevin Strootman, who will be in Bucharest tonight for Roma’s final Europa League game against Astra Giurgiu, will probably be there as well.
Yesterday the federal prosecution sent most of the relevant documents to Roma, with the remaining items due to be sent today. If Strootman’s 2 match ban for simulation is confirmed, it will set a precedent that could have unimaginable consequences.
Article 35 (which regards reviewing TV evidence) was invoked because neither the referee Banti nor his assistants saw the incident. However, looking back at the replays of those vital few moments after Strootman’s goal, it’s clear that the fourth official, Alessandro Costanzo, was right in the middle of the melee – he actually intervened to separate the players. Costanzo, you may remember, attracted the anger of Lazio fans because some replays seemed to show him celebrating the goal scored by Nainggolan that made it 2-0 to Roma. His involvement is one of the cornerstones of Roma’s appeal, and consequently they have also asked for the fourth official’s match report: it’s impossible for Costanzo to say that he didn’t see the incident.
Another factor is that Strootman was punished for simulation. Roma’s argument aims to demonstrate that Strootman’s shirt was grabbed, being stretched out by about 35cm. The player then went to ground because he feared being struck from behind and, with Cataldi grabbing onto his shirt, he was trying to avoid injury to the back of his neck. Moreover, Strootman took just 0.4 seconds to get back to his feet. If he was really intent on simulation (and thus cause Cataldi to be punished) then he would have continued to roll around on the floor.
It should be pointed out that, if a player is sent off for simulation, it isn’t possible for his suspension to be reduced on appeal. Strootman’s ban is also the minimum amount of time a player can be banned for simulation. His 2 match suspension must therefore either be revoked entirely or confirmed. Essentially, Strootman will either miss both Milan and Juventus or will be available for both.
The main aspect of Roma’s appeal is that, when Strootman’s apparent simulation was highlighted, it was taken for granted that this same action also caused Cataldi to be suspended, and it is clearly incompatible for both decisions to be upheld. In Boston, Pallotta is furious and is waiting to hear further; meanwhile, he has also postponed his pre-Christmas trip to Rome.
Roma’s directors are confident that their appeal will be successful, but there is something that should give them pause for thought. Up until a few months ago the sports justice, Gerardo Mastrandrea, was in charge of the court of appeal for sports, and he was the man who appointed its judges. Will the people he called colleagues up until recently have the conviction to overturn the decision taken by their former boss?
Last night, Roma also heard the statements made by Juventus’ CEO Beppe Marotta just before their Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb. However, the Giallorossi’s directors preferred not to respond in public. In some ways, Roma’s match with Juventus (which takes place on the pitch on 17th December) has already begun.