Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham has been fined for his comments regarding a German match-fixing scandal. But what exactly was the England international referring to?
Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham has been fined €40,000 by the German Football Association (DFB), which judged his post-Klassiker remarks about referee Felix Zwayer to be "unsporting behavior."
"If you give a referee who's match-fixed before the biggest game in Germany, what do you expect?" the English teenager had told Norwegian broadcaster Viaplay after his team's 3-2 defeat to Bayern Munich.
German football magazine Kicker rated Zwayer's performance 5.5 on a 6-point scale, almost the lowest mark possible, after the 40-year-old had awarded Bayern Munich a controversial penalty but failed to even consult with VAR on a Borussia Dortmund penalty claim.
But Bellingham's post-match comments referred to more than just the previous 90 minutes.
What exactly was Jude Bellingham referring to?
Back in 2005, German football was rocked by a match-fixing scandal when it emerged that referee Robert Hoyzer had manipulated a series of matches in 2004 in the second division, third tier and German Cup on behalf of a Berlin-based Croatian betting mafia.
According to Spiegel magazine, Hoyzer, then 24, made around €67,000 (roughly $75,000 at the current exchange rate) in premiums from fixing matches upon which his Croatian controllers had betted. He was sentenced to two years and five months in prison, and banned for life from refereeing.
Most infamously, Hoyzer had helped ensure that SC Paderborn knocked Bundesliga side Hamburg out of the cup on August 21, 2004, by awarding the amateur side a controversial penalty and sending off a HSV player for remonstrating, helping Paderborn to come from 0-2 down to win 4-2. HSV were subsequently awarded €500,000 in compensation.
What does Felix Zwayer have to do with it?
On another occasion, Hoyzer had unsuccessfully attempted to influence another Paderborn game, a league match against Chemnitz, but his assistant referee had flagged up a dodgy penalty decision as incorrect.
Partly as a result, Hoyzer began enlisting the help of refereeing colleagues, including Felix Zwayer, then a 23-year-old assistant referee. Ahead of a match between Wuppertal and Werder Bremen's reserves, Hoyzer gave Zwayer €300, which the latter accepted.
Wuppertal won 1-0, as planned by Hoyzer's Croatian controllers, but not as a result of any decision made or assisted by Zwayer.
How was the scandal uncovered?
In January 2005, Zwayer and three other referees, including former Bundesliga referee Manuel Gräfe, informed the DFB of their suspicions. Hoyzer came clean and was sentenced.
In 2006, the DFB also sentenced Zwayer for his involvement — although his ban was limited to six months in recognition of his contribution to the uncovering the affair.
The actual details of the verdict, however, remained secret, with the DFB allegedly concerned about the reputation of German football shortly before it hosted the 2006 World Cup.
How much did the DFB really know?
In 2014, German broadsheet Die Zeit revealed documents detailing the DFB's verdict on Zwayer, which confirmed that the governing body had reached the following conclusions:
That Zwayer had behaved in a "grossly unsporting" manner
That "it can be assumed that Zwayer didn't reject Hoyzer's initial approach in the manner which would be expected of an honest referee, and took the money."
That Zwayer "failed to report his knowledge of Hoyzer's match manipulations to the DFB for a prolonged period of time."
That Zwayer had accepted €300 from Hoyer ahead of the game between Wuppertal and Werder Bremen "in order to avoid critical situations for Wuppertal in his role as assistant referee."
Although there is no evidence that Zwayer ever actually made any intentionally incorrect decisions in Wuppertal's favor, the verdict revealed that the DFB had explicitly disciplined Zwayer for taking a bribe and for failing to report match-fixing.
But he hadn't been banned for life.
How has this been seen in Germany?
Jude Bellingham is not the first person to criticize Zwayer with regards to his involvement in the Hoyzer Affair.
Zwayer's former colleague Manuel Gräfe has frequently criticized his continued deployment in the Bundesliga, telling Zeit Magazin this summer: "If you accept money once and then cover up Hoyzer's manipulation for six months, you shouldn't be refereeing professional football."
Following Saturday's game between Dortmund and Bayern, Gräfe told broadcaster ZDF that he could "absolutely understand Dortmund's anger. The decisions went against BVB and were unfortunately decisive."
He added that Zwayer "did not get the balance right."
What's happened to Bellingham?
After submitting a written statement, Bellingham has been fined €40,000 but has avoided a ban, meaning he is elligeable to face Bochum in the Bundesliga at the weekend.
The DFB's official referee observer Marco Haase has also pressed libel charges against Bellingham, telling a local newspaper: "These comments affect all referees right down to the grassroots."
Speaking to Kicker, lawyer Dr. Ingo Bott postulated: "Only the victim, in other words the person again whom a libelous insult is directed, may sue for libel. Since Mr. Zwayer has not filed charges himself, there ought not to be any serious investigation ... It's nothing more than public hot air."