Soccer is the most popular sport in Italy. Photo by Oris Arisara/Shutterstock
ROME, May 19 (UPI) -- More than 50 people have been arrested throughout Italy as part of a soccer match-fixing investigation alleging possible links to Mafia organizations.
Charges include criminal association aimed at sports fraud. Prosecutors allege "dozens" of matches were fixed within Italian soccer's third and fourth divisions, Serie C and Serie D, respectively.
More than 70 people were placed under the "Dirty Soccer" investigation by anti-Mafia prosecutors in the town of Catanzaro.
About 33 clubs are allegedly involved, including Pro Patria, Brindisi, L'Aquila, Sorrento and San Severo, according to prosecutors.
People involved in the alleged crimes "were plotting to extend the fixes to Serie B and bigger matches," Catanzaro prosecutor Vincenzo Antonio Lombardo said.
The key Mafia organization suspected to be involved in match-fixing is 'Ndrangheta, founded in Calabria and known to be one of the most powerful organized crime groups in the world.
The investigation shows "how the ramifications of the 'Ndrangheta have reached a high level not only in the classic areas where criminal gangs operate but also in the world of sports," anti-Mafia investigator Renato Cortese said at a news conference.
'Ndrangheta reportedly generates an annual revenue of about $66 billion and calls on the services of more than 60,000 people across 30 countries.
"Probably in situations like these there needs to be better control of the leagues and more checks required," Italian coaches' association president Renzo Ulivieri told the Gazzetta dello Sport. "If this is the situation, we're facing an absolute emergency."