November 25, 2009

UEFA, football leaders open match-fixing summit

Football officials from nine countries have begun an emergency meeting with UEFA about Europe's biggest match-fixing investigation.

The European football body invited national association leaders from Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey to Wednesday's summit.

"We hope to get information from UEFA," Turkish FA general secretary Ahmet Guvener told The Associated Press.

Guvener's colleagues, Wolfgang Niersbach from Germany and Jean-Marie Philips from Belgium, declined to talk with media before the meeting, which was led by UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino and scheduled to last five hours.

German-based gangs are suspected to have manipulated 200 matches this year as part of organized betting scams.

Most are national league games, along with three Champions League qualifying matches and 12 from the second-tier Europa League under suspicion. A qualifying match for the Under-21 European Championship is also on the list.

Betting syndicates are suspected of bribing players, coaches, referees and other officials to fix games and the suspected leaders are believed to have made at least euro10 million ($15 million).

The probe is being led by the prosecutor's office in Bochum, which is Germany's leading authority on corruption and fraud.

German police arrested 15 people last week including Ante Sapina, a Croatian national who was convicted in Germany's match-fixing scandal in 2005 that involved referee Robert Hoyzer.

Another man was arrested in Croatia on Tuesday. Two players have been questioned in Switzerland and suspended by their clubs.

UEFA has been sharing information with German authorities and was preparing to give more details to its nine member associations Wednesday.

UEFA routinely monitors Europe's 53 football nations for evidence of suspicious betting patterns in matches from the top two divisions and domestic cup competitions.

It said earlier this season that 40 suspected matches from the last four seasons of play in the Champions League and UEFA Cup -- the predecessor for the Europa League -- were being studied.

UEFA president Michel Platini said in his annual Congress speech in March that match-fixing and illegal betting were the greatest problems facing European football.

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