PtG Article 31.03.2010

Match-fixing arrests and allegations continue

The match-fixing plague dogging football has led to further arrests in China and Turkey and more allegations emerging in Italy and Switzerland in the last week alone.

In China, police arrested three football referees on suspicion of match fixing, including one who officiated at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Lu Jun refereed two World Cup finals matches and more than 200 Chinese league matches before retiring in 2005. According to Chinese media reports, Jun was detained for taking bribes along with fellow referees Huang Junjie, a nominee last year for the China Super League’s best referee, and Zhou Weixin, who retired in 2004 after being handed down an eight-game suspension for a suspect decision.

The arrests are another blow for the Chinese Football Association, which in January sacked general secretary Nan Yong after an investigation into match-fixing and illegal gambling. After taking over, his replacement Wei Di admitted that he was “shocked” at the state of Chinese football.

In Turkey, an anti-corruption probe that last week saw 46 arrests has led to the first set of charges and a former Turkish international is one of four people in the dock. Fatih Akyel, a defender with third-division Tepecikspor but formerly at Galatasaray and with 64 caps for Turkey, has been charged with fraud and membership of a criminal organization and jailed pending trial according to the Anatolia news agency.

Police have also charged Akyel’s Tepecikspor club-mate Ali Riza Guntekin, club chairman Temel Eyupoglu and the goalkeeper of second-division outfit Konyaspor Recep Ozturk but Anatolia had no further details of the charges.

In Italy, UEFA are studying ‘unusual betting’ on four recent matches, including one Serie A fixture last week between Chievo and Catania that led to bookmakers suspending bets after more than £2 million was gambled on a draw and hundreds of thousands of pounds on a 1-1 result. This was the final result but only secured by a suspect penalty decision.

That match and three others in Serie B are being investigated by UEFA but this probe is not, according to UK newspaper The Independent, separate to an ongoing investigation into a Croatia-based match-fixing ring that operated across Europe and led to the arrests in Turkey.

“It’s true, we’re looking at four games in Italy,” a ‘senior investigative source’ was quoted as telling The Independent. “Chievo-Catania is in a situation [of severity] on its own. We have never seen volumes like this before. It needs explaining.”

In Switzerland, allegations of match-fixing have been leveled at Geoffroy Serey Die, a midfielder from Ivory Coast, who plays for FC Sion after the club’s president Christian Constantin heard of large sums being gambled on a match with Grasshoppers on March 17.

“In the autumn, Serey suddenly turned up for training in a brand new Porsche Cayenne,” Constantin told Blick magazine in an interview translated by The Observer newspaper. “I asked him to explain where he had got the money from. He shrugged and said his manager had paid for it. The whole time, Serey has moaned that his wages are barely enough and that he has to send a lot of money back to his family in the Ivory Coast. And then he turns up in a car which can’t have cost less than 80,000 Swiss francs.”

In the Grasshoppers fixture, Serey was sent off for shoving an opponent in the face. The Ivorian denies he was approached by anyone to cheat.