BERLIN, March 10 (Reuters) - A new match-rigging scandal has hit German soccer, embarrassing the World Cup hosts less than three months before the start of the finals.
Four people were arrested this week after an investigation into alleged match-rigging in the second division and regional league, Frankfurt prosecutors said in a statement.
'There is no good or bad timing for something like this but the fact that it happens before what will be the biggest event in Germany over the next 50 years or so obviously makes it even worse,' German Football Association (DFB) chief executive Theo Zwanziger told reporters in Duesseldorf.
Players were approached and offered several thousand euros if they could influence the result of at least five games, said chief Frankfurt prosecutor Thomas Bechtel. In at least one case such a payment was accepted.
The four were arrested on Monday and were being detained. Bechtel did not name them nor say which teams were involved so as not to hamper the investigation which is in its early stages.
The German Football Association (DFB) said the new cases were not of the magnitude of last year's scandal involving Robert Hoyzer.
Referee Hoyzer was sentenced to two years and five months in prison last November after admitting fixing several top-level matches in return for payment from a Croatian betting ring.
'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,' Zwanziger said in a statement.
Investigators are particularly interested in a second division game between Hansa Rostock and Sportfreunden Siegen, won 2-0 by former Bundesliga side Rostock in February after Siegen had a player sent off.
Siegen goalkeeper Adnan Masic was questioned by investigators on Friday over his contacts with one of the suspects before the match.
'Adnan Masic has personally assured us that he had done nothing wrong and we have no reason not to believe him,' Siegen chairman Holger Rathke told a news conference.
The German Football League (DFL) said in a statement the four other matches involved were amateur regional league games.
Germany could have lived without another scandal in the final straight before the June 9-July 9 World Cup after the Hoyzer affair tarnished the reputation of German soccer.
In the most notorious match-rigging incident, Hoyzer awarded regional league side Paderborn two penalties to help them come from two goals down to knock out first division Hamburg SV in the first round of the German Cup. He also sent off Hamburg striker Emile Mpenza.
After the verdict in November, Zwanziger said he hoped Hoyzer's jail sentence would make people think twice before trying to fix matches.
'As long as there is money circulating around games, sadly, you cannot rule out manipulation and cheating,' he said on Friday.