Vietnam spares stars jail for match-fixing

January 26, 2007

HANOI, Jan 26 (Reuters) - A court spared six Vietnamese soccer internationals from jail after their conviction on Friday for match-fixing during the 2005 Southeast Asian Games, but sentenced two other players to prison terms.

Former national team midfielder Le Quoc Vuong and V-league club striker Truong Tan Hai were sentenced to six years and three years in prison respectively for 'organising gambling', a Ho Chi Minh City People's Court official said by telephone.

The six national team players, including star striker Pham Van Quyen, received suspended sentences of between two years and two and a half years. The were not sent to jail because of their contribution to the national sport, the court said.

Quyen also asked for the opportunity to play professional soccer again.

'Only the two organisers were punished with jail sentences,' the court official said.

Vuong acted as the link between the players and an underground betting house to fix a match between Vietnam and Myanmar at the SEA Games in 2005 in the Philippines in return for 490 million dong (£15,000).

Vietnam beat Myanmar 1-0 but lost to Thailand in the final held in the Philippines.

Vietnam has been tainted by a string of match-fixing scandals in the last year.

Any form of gambling is illegal in the communist-run country but widespread police corruption allows underground betting rings to flourish.

The government has said it may legalise soccer betting this year, which the Asian Football Confederation said could help to rid the game of match-fixing.