Match-fixing scandal

Match-fixing probe unrelated to 2005 controversy

November 23, 2009

Europe's biggest match-fixing scandal has nothing to do with Germany's 2005 illegal betting affair, according to the country's soccer chief.

German police said on Friday they had dismantled a gang with more than 200 suspected members operating in nine European leagues.

Police in Germany, Britain, Austria and Switzerland staged simultaneous raids on Thursday, arresting 15 people in Germany and two in Switzerland.

The gang is suspected of having paid off referees, players and officials to win at least 10 million euros ($14.97 million), with officials speculating this to be the tip of the iceberg.

"For me there are fundamental differences," German soccer federation (DFB) chief Theo Zwanziger told a news conference on Monday. "(In 2005) we were alone with that scandal.

"We now also have something this time we did not have then," he said of German soccer's legal arsenal and its early warning system that monitors betting patterns.

Of at least 200 matches across Europe, including three in the Champions League, 32 in Germany are under investigation. Four games involve clubs in the second division and three in the third, with the remainder in lower leagues and under-19 matches. A representative for UEFA, European soccer's governing body, called it the biggest match-fixing scandal on the continent.

In 2005 Germany was rocked by the "Hoyzer scandal", its biggest illegal betting affair until then involving three Croatian brothers, all of them convicted, as well as Bundesliga referee Robert Hoyzer.

Hoyzer helped rig top German matches in return for cash and goods. He was convicted in late 2005 to 29 months in prison.

"Imagine how the DFB would sit here if all those actions then were without stiff sentences. That would have been a miserable result for our society," said Zwanziger. "We also set up a warning system since then that has helped us in the past years. But it has to be clear a sports federation is over-challenged when it comes to battling international crime."