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Foul play

November 24, 2009

Major German soccer organizations announced the creation of a task force to investigate a betting scandal which has rocked the sport in Europe.

Betting scandal symbolic picture with montage of soccer players and money
Will a task force be enough to fight organized crime?Image: picture-alliance / Sven Simon

The German Football Federation (DFB) and the German Football League (DFL) have said they will join forces to probe 32 games suspected of having been fixed.

"A sports federation has a duty to fight organized crime with international implications," DFB president Theo Zwanziger told a press conference. "We can only achieve this with the support of the public prosecutor's office."

Police in Italy arrested nine people in connection with the scandal on Monday. This followed 17 arrests last Thursday in simultaneous raids in Germany, Britain, Austria and Switzerland.

European soccer is left reeling

The scandal is shaping up to be the continent's worst-ever case of match-fixing in soccer.

German prosecutors revealed last Friday that as many as 200 games across Europe are thought to have been rigged. Police suspect a network of 200 people fixed matches in at least 10 countries through bribes to players, coaches, referees and officials. The gang is thought to have earned as much as 10 million euros ($15 million) by winning huge bets with bookmakers in Europe and Asia, especially in China.

Theo Zwanziger headshot
DFB's Zwanziger wants the public prosecutor's supportImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

It is believed none of the 200 suspicious games involves any of Europe's top flight leagues, such as those in Italy, Spain and England. The 32 German matches involve clubs extending from regional leagues up to the country's second division.

Zwanziger said the affair was unrelated to the so-called "Hoyzer scandal" of 2005. That had been German soccer's worst match-fixing affair since the 1970s.

"For me there are fundamental differences," Zwanziger told Monday's news conference. "(In 2005) we were alone with that scandal."

The "Hoyzer scandal" involved three Croatian brothers and Bundesliga referee Robert Hoyzer, who admitted to receiving 70,000 euros and a plasma television to throw matches. All the men were convicted.

"Imagine what position the DFB would be in if all those actions then had ended up without stiff sentences. That would have been a miserable result for our society," Zwanziger said.

"We now also have something this time we did not have then," he added, referring to an early warning system developed to monitor betting patterns for signs of suspicious activity.

Crime gangs are on the ball

However, DFL boss Christian Seifert cautioned that no early-warning system could be fool-proof.

"While the early-warning system is in place, no federation in the world is 100 percent safe against organised crime gangs who want to manipulate matches," Seifert said.

Meanwhile, the governing body for European football, UEFA, has called a crisis-meeting at its base in Nyon, Switzerland, for this Wednesday.

UEFA's media director, Robert Faulkner, said only groups that were affected by the most recent manipulation scandals would be invited.

Editor: Michael Lawton

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