Italy's most famous and successful club Juventus have been relegated to the second division of Italian football and docked 30 points following an investigation into match-fixing.

Fellow Serie A league sides Lazio and Fiorentina were also demoted to Serie B by the sporting tribunal, the former docked seven points and the latter 12.

Juventus, known as the Old Lady of Italian football, were also stripped of their last two Serie A titles.

It was the verdict Juventus officials, players and fans had dreaded and now spells an almost certain two seasons out of the top league. AC Milan, who were also investigated, have been docked 15 points but will remain in Serie A. Juventus, Milan and Fiorentina have lost their places in the Champions League, and Lazio will not compete in the Uefa Cup.All four clubs reacted with anger after the verdicts were announced, and are now likely to appeal.

Any appeals must be made within three days but are unlikely to affect the European bans, as the FIGC must submit its list of teams for the international competitions within the next 11 days.

Among the individuals investigated, former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi and ex-chief executive Antonio Giraudo were suspended from football for the maximum five years, with a recommendation that the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) make it a life ban.

AC Milan vice-resident Adriano Galliani was suspended for one year, while Lazio president Claudio Lotito was banned for three years; Fiorentina p resident Andrea Della Valle was banned for three years and six months.

The investigation was prompted by the leaking of telephone transcripts in May.

The records featured calls between Moggi and the FIGC, during which refereeing appointments for the 2004-05 season were discussed.

A subsequent investigation led to Juventus being charged along with the other clubs. The main charge was that their management, along with football officials and referees, tried to affect the results of games by influencing the selection of match officials.

FIGC prosecutor Stefano Palazzi also charged 26 individuals for sporting fraud and violating fairness and probity.

All four clubs had denied the accusations.

The verdicts have brought Italian football down the earth with a bump after the exultant scenes which followed the national team's World Cup triumph on Sunday night.

Italy's Justice Minister Clemente Mastella had called for leniency in light of the victory, but that was dismissed out of hand by FIGC chief investigator Francesco Borrelli.

Thirteeen members of the triumphant World Cup squad play for one of the four clubs, including Azzurri captain Fabio Cannavaro and goalkeeper Gigi Buffon of Juventus, Gennaro Gattuso of AC Milan and Luca Toni of Fiorentina.

And the vultures are already circling, with top European clubs set to pick off the guilty clubs' best players.

To rub salt in the wound for Juventus, it is their recently departed manager Fabio Capello who wants to take Cannavaro and the club's Brazilian midfielder Emerson to his new employer Real Madrid.

The wider financial impact on the clubs will compound the punishment. Loss of TV revenue and sponsorship agreements could cost millions, while Juventus have seen their shares plummet dramatically since the scandal came to light.

The verdicts cap the most dramatic week in Italian footballing history, a week which began with the ultimate sporting triumph and finished in unseemly shame and scandal.

Where Italian football has triumphed once already in claiming the famous World Cup against such an unsavoury backdrop, now it must do so again by restoring its shattered credibility.