Wellington signs Marco Rossi despite questions over match-fixing ban

Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick is confident about the character of his new signing Marco Rossi despite the player being banned during the match-fixing scandal that engulfed Italian football in 2011.

The 28-year-old, who has previously played for Parma, Sampdoria, Bari and Perugia, has signed a two-year deal with the A-League club.

The centre-back was banned for 20 months in 2012, not for match-fixing but for not reporting match-fixing during his time at Bari.

While there was no mention of the ban or match-fixing during the player's unveiling in Wellington on Tuesday morning, coach Ernie Merrick was asked about Rossi's character.

"We looked into his background fairly carefully and there's no doubt in my mind he's a good person," said Merrick.

"It's very important that we sign the right people for this club.

"Knowing the agent that was involved and his honesty, we could get a really good picture not only of the quality of the player but the quality of the character.

"We're really happy with what we've got and we certainly did our homework."

Phoenix general manager David Dome said the club were made aware of the ban from the start.

"Before we even talked to the player we spent a lot of time talking to agents and people who knew him. We dug into it and found out what the story was," Dome said.

"It wasn't him that did the match-fixing himself he just didn't report it. Even in Europe it's a low level offence which you saw from the punishment that was handed out to him."

Dome said the nature of the football environment in Italy, where match-fixing was not uncommon and there were ties to the mafia, and the fact Rossi had not fixed matches were factors in their decision to pursue his signature.

"It's a different environment to that in New Zealand. He comes from that part of Italy where there are some serious dealings in match-fixing and people who speak out against either their friends or people in that business can suffer consequences," Dome said.

"It's not just them it's their friends and their family who get swept up in all of this stuff.

"So Marco probably took a pragmatic approach in that regard. He was found out and he served his ban and paid a reparation to the church as part of it. We were comfortable with that and the explanation we got about it."

Italian football has been rocked by a series of match-fixing scandals.

In 2006, systematic rigging at boardroom level resulted in Juventus, Lazio and Fiorentina being relegated to Serie B, while AC Milan were docked points but avoided relegation.

The match-fixing scandal in 2011 resulted in almost 20 players being banned for a range of one to five years with more implicated and banned the following year.