Four people are in custody as part of an investigation into a new match fixing affair that threatens to blacken Germany's name ahead of the World Cup and resurrect the shame of the Hoyzer scandal from last year.
Prosecutors say players from the lower leagues were offered bribes to throw games
Just when the German Football Association (DFB) thought it had swept the debris from last year's refereeing scandal under the carpet in time to host a scandal-free World Cup, Frankfurt state prosecutors revealed on Friday that four people were arrested this week as a result of an investigation into alleged match fixing.
Chief prosecutor Thomas Bechtel said the four were arrested on Monday and were still in custody but he refused to name them or the teams involved in the suspected betting fraud in the German second division and regional league as not to endanger the ongoing investigation.
Robert Hoyzer was convicted in November last year
According to the court statement, the alleged match fixing involves worrying similarities to that which engulfed the Bundesliga in 2005 when referee Robert Hoyzer admitted fixing a number of games as part of a Balkan mafia operation.
Hoyzer was sentenced to two years and five months in prison last November after admitting fixing several matches in return for payment from a Croatian ringleader.
Prosecutors believe at least one bribe was accepted
In this latest episode, it has been confirmed that players have been allegedly approached and offered several thousand euros if they could influence the result of at least five games. The court revealed that it is believed that at least one of the offers of payment was accepted. The court also refused to acknowledge or deny any connection with the match fixing operation involving Hoyzer.
The DFB also revealed that it was carrying out its own investigation into the possibility that matches in the amateur regional league might have been fixed this season after hearing claims to that effect. The DFB said in a statement that it had no evidence yet and had handed all relevant information to the state prosecutors in Frankfurt.
No refereeing or top tier involvement, DFB says
The ruling body was quick to add that the current probe had so far shown that the new cases of match fixing were nowhere near as large as those of last year and that there had been no evidence as yet to indicate the top tier of the game had been infiltrated or officials bribed.
The DFB's Theo Zwanziger promised swift action
"We have to state clearly that, according to the results of the ongoing investigation, no referee is involved and no first division club is concerned," DFB chief executive Theo Zwanziger said in a statement. "As long as there is money circulating around games, sadly, you cannot rule out manipulation and cheating," Zwanziger added.
"The DFB has been investigating for several weeks. There was a very small suspicion of a criminal act and we decided that in the interests of a clear explanation we would work together with the investigators," Zwanziger continued. "If anything is confirmed, it will be investigated and action will be taken. Those involved will be removed, and that includes from football circles."
Retrial possibility in Hoyzer case
Meanwhile the Hoyzer scandal threatens to surface once more to add further insult to injury after it was revealed that the disgraced referee was not the official at one of the matches that he was accused of fixing and that as this was included in the court case against him, the mistake may lead to a retrial.
Legal experts were investigating the claim and the prospect of the case returning to court. The DFB will be hoping that no mistake was made but if there was, the retrial is scheduled for sometime after July 9 this year -- the day of the World Cup final.