By Jeremy Lim
Refereeing controversies dog the beautiful game like a suffocating stench, if only because it will remain forever imperfect, tainted with human error on a day-to-day basis that does the sport no benevolent justice.
From the publicised blunders of Howard Webb in favour of Manchester United to Byron Moreno's horror show at the 2002 World Cup, there is no foreseeable end in sight to the obsession surrounding the decisions made by match officials.
And so, enter Juventus into the fracas as a result of the perceived injustice they have endured of late, the champions of Italy with their reputation tarnished by Calciopoli, Sulley Muntari's 'phantom goal' ruling last February and the bogus 1-0 victory in Catania this season. But what's this? The Bianconeri, pertinently stripped of her integrity in the eyes of the rest of Italian football, now deem to broach the needs for reform in the officiating process. "How dare they," rivals and media pundits exclaim in unison.
Antonio Conte's questioning of how a decision that goes against Juve commands less media attention and comment than one which they benefit from has all but fallen on deaf ears, the 43-year-old's 'subversive' methodologies dismissed under scrutiny and suspicion; if only because he is associated with the Turin giants then his accusations against the performances of those who officiated his side's recent games against Sampdoria and Genoa grew too vehement.
Perchance, an official account from Italian football's governing body on why linesman Luca Maggiani - the man who gift-wrapped Juventus' win at Catania - received a six round suspension from fixtures but Nicola Rizzoli - who awarded the highly contentious winning penalty to AC Milan against the Old Lady the previous November - escaped scot-free would assist in calming the perturbed Conte, but it has as yet not proven forthcoming.
Indeed, in the face of the non-response the club has been receiving, it is small wonder thoughts of something underhanded working against them grows in their minds. The sense of conspiracy rankles on as assistant Fabiano Preti suffered a four round ban for allowing Arturo Vidal's inconsequential offside opener in the 3-1 capitulation to Inter, whereas Paolo Valeri went clean even after he had flatly declined two stonewall penalty appeals from the irate hosts that contributed to the home loss to Sampdoria.
It all boiled over against Genoa when Conte and a host of Juventus personnel were branded the culprits, receiving sanctions for antagonising Marco Guida in addition to lambasting his performance - which, as you will guess, failed to earn him any penalty, despite clear mistakes penalising both teams.
The inconsistencies are in the open, for all to see. Too many oversights have been occurring for the situation to be passed off as a series of isolated incidents. Conspiracy or not, such irregularities warrant corrective action on an organisational level, bar the international credibility of Serie A, painstakingly rebuilt since 2006, goes down the drain once more.
Pressingly as a solution to this debacle, calls from Juventus for changes to the procedural assignment and subsequent assessment of referees ought not to be met with so much flak. After all, they only benefited directly from a decision going in their favour over the entirety of this campaign during that single, fateful encounter with Catania. While a club of their influence will never be able to evade the sphere of controversy, it is fundamental for the public to exercise discretion as to the perspectives it adopts regarding supposed referee bias.
Have Juventus ever gained from controversial decisions? Yes. Are Juventus the only club to ever have gained from controversial decisions? No. To dismiss that they stand alone as direct protagonists in currying favours from referees, the sole benefactors of incorrect decisions, or instant purveyors of guilt before a ball has been kicked is a perverse misjudgement that serves only to camouflage a greater issue.
In this brave new era for the club, the trappings of Luciano Moggi's reign have been shed, and though the presentation of their arguments might be in poor taste, their anger and recognition for the need of reform is not completely without substance either.
It is crucial that if Italian football is to return to being a world-class spectacle, it has to boast similar, quality infrastructure, with quality refereeing chief amongst the supporting services. Those with influence in the league had better pull together quickly and work together towards achieving this common cause, before infighting threatens to render asunder the sporting progress made in the past few seasons.