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Soccer Scandal

December 2, 2009

Parliament's top body for sport met to talk about the latest football betting scandal. In the end, it seems, there was not very much that it could do to put an end to match-fixing.

A football on top of some euro notes
Politicians met to see what could be done to prevent match-fixingImage: picture-alliance/chromorange

Politicians have expressed shock over the disclosures in the betting scandal that has rocked European football.

But members of the German parliament's sport committee have rejected calls by a professional sport body for changes to the betting market and appeals for new criminal legislation.

The committee was meeting to discuss the Europe-wide scandal and how the government could act to prevent further instances.

The extent of the match-fixing, outlined in Bochum last month by police and UEFA officials, had surprised some committee members. Nine European leagues, including Germany's, are under the microscope - with similar allegations also surfacing in Spain this week.

"Impossible to imagine"

A man entering a betting shop with a sign in the background
Groups are calling for greater liberalisation of bettingImage: AP

"It was not possible to imagine such a scale of manipulation. We cannot turn a blind eye to it. We must set clear boundaries," said Christian Democrat Klaus Riegert.

However, Riegert said that changes to sharpen the criminal law and open up betting markets to competition were not a good idea.

Those in favor of more competition, including the professional sport organization Initiative Profisport Deutschland, say that the state betting monopoly has failed to tackle corruption in sport. It believes that opening up the business to licensed operators would actually help to stop corruption.

Social Democrat committee chairman Dagmar Freitag, said that greater commercialization would only exacerbate the problem.

Green representative Winifred Hermann, however, said there should be special laws applying to sport, citing the case of referee Robert Hoyzer, jailed in 2005 for his part in an earlier match-fixing scandal. "The prison sentence for Hoyzer could, because of a deficiency in law, only be pronounced after some difficulty," said Hermann.

Others disagreed and the committee did not recommend legal changes. German Football Association President Theo Zwanziger has promised tough penalties for match-fixers.

Details not forthcoming

The German Football Federation (DFB) has still not been given further information about the investigations by prosecutors in Bochum, two weeks after details of the investigation were made public.

The DFB was represented at the committee meeting, and raised its complaints about the investigation by state prosecutors. "We are a little concerned that bodies have not been given the information, said DFB vice-president Rainer Koch. "As a result, many players, many clubs are under suspicion without our being able to say that it is true or that it is not true."

There were no indications that referees were involved, said Koch. But he noted that early warning systems to detect betting scandals on a national scale had failed.

Appeal for help

He appealed to the committee to give the bodies the help they would need to clear up matters comprehensively. "We are worried that the prosecution will be satisfied with what they've got just at the point where we are beginning to get interested,” said Koch.

Figures throughout the lower leagues of the German game have found themselves under suspicion in light of the scandal.

The captain of regional German side SC Verl, Patrick Neumann, has gone into hiding in fear of those involved in the scandal, after he was suspended by his club last week.

A bespectacled Theo Zwanziger gesticulates with his hand while talking
German Football Federation president Theo Zwanziger has promised tough sanctionsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Third division side SV Sandhausen on Monday dismissed defender Marcel Schuon after the investigation indicated irregularities while he was playing for VfL Osnabrueck.

The public prosecutor in the western city of Bochum last month indicated that 32 suspect matches had been identified, but some say the number is far higher.

It is thought that through bribing players, coaches and officials, the group may have earned as much as 10 million euros placing bets in Europe and Asia.

On Tuesday, the Spanish football federation said it was opening an enquiry into players suspected of betting on the outcome of matches. Spanish second division clubs Las Palmas and Rayo Vallecano, along with seven professional players are to be investigated, according to the Las Palmas website.

Editor: Michael Lawton

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