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Germany

Referee Gets Jail Time for Match Fixing

Former referee Robert Hoyzer, who admitted fixing top matches in return for bribes from a Croatian mafia ring, was sentenced to two years and five months in jail on Thursday. The sentence was much harsher than expected.

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Former referee Hoyzer will spend time behind bars

Because Hoyzer had been cooperative with authorities and provided extensive testimony in the case, it was widely thought he would get a suspended jail sentence. But a Berlin court ruled that the 26-year-old former referee would serve two years and five months in jail for his role in the worst soccer matching in Germany in 30 years. The sentence went beyond the suspended sentence that prosecutors had asked for.

Former fellow referee Dominik Marks, also accused of receiving money from an illegal gambling ring although not thought to have manipulated games, received a suspended jail sentence of one year and six months.

Croatian Ante Sapine, Hoyzer's paymaster in the gambling ring, received a prison sentence of two years and eleven months. His two brothers both received suspended sentences.

Once a rising talent

Hoyzer, 26, was once a promising Bundesliga referee who was quickly rising through the ranks. But after admitting to the manipulation of nine matches, he picked up a lifetime ban from the German Football Federation (DFB).

One of them was a DFB cup game in which one team was losing 2-0 before Hoyzer awarded two controversial penalties and sent off a valuable player to help ensure a 4-2 victory for the other side.

Hoyzer allegedly received twenty thousand euros ($23,000) for fixing that game alone. Between April and December 2004 he is thought to have received 68,000 euros ($79,000) and a plasma television for fixing games.

He was arrested in February after fellow referees went to the authorities with their suspicions. Prosecutors are asking that Hoyzer receive a two-year suspended prison sentence, saying their demands are moderate because of Hoyer's testimony in the case.

"German football has been spared an unbearable and drawn-out marathon trial," prosecutor Hans-Jürgen Fätkinhäuer told the court in summing up.

Croatian connection

Hoyzer claimed he was tempted into match fixing by the Sapina Croatian brothers who run a café in Berlin where Hoyzer spent a good deal of his free time, he said in an interview.

“There are always very expensive cars parked outside the café," he said. "I must admit that really impressed me. This way of life became something I really wanted: having a lot by doing very little. After that it all snowballed. It was definitely down to greed.”

The three Croatian brothers who are also co-defendents in the case are Ante Sapine, who was Hoyzer's paymaster, and Milan and Filip. They are considered ringleaders of a betting scam that involved fixing a total of 23 matches in 2004.

Big impact

Hoyzer has admitted that the whole scandal has had a negative impact on German soccer.

"It will have very serious implications for football," he said. But in a final appeal to the court, he asked that he be given a second chance.

"I'm now ready to lead a simple and solid life," he told the court. A spokesman for the German football association has described the scandal as the biggest crisis in 30 years and said the damage caused by Hoyzer was "irreparable." Thursday's verdict comes just before the draw for the World Cup groupings and opening matches for what is supposed to be the finest hour in German football.

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