Referee in German football scandal to name bribed players

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The Independent Online

The German referee at the centre of the football match-fixing scandal that has shocked Germany says he is about to name colleagues and players who also took bribes.

The German referee at the centre of the football match-fixing scandal that has shocked Germany says he is about to name colleagues and players who also took bribes.

With tickets for next year's World Cup - which will be staged in Germany - due to go on sale on Tuesday, Theo Zwanziger, president of Deutscher Fussball-Bund, the German football association, said it was difficult to know just how deeply the scandal had penetrated the sport.

Robert Hoyzer last week admitted that he awarded improbable penalties, sent off star players, ignored blatant fouls and allowed contentious goals, all to please a Croatian-run betting syndicate who profited from unlikely, even miraculous, scorelines. It is the worst match-fixing scandal in Germany since 1971, when sanctions for corruption were imposed on 53 players, two coaches, six officials and the clubs Arminia Bielefeld and Kickers Offenbach.

"Many more people are involved," a tearful Mr Hoyzer, 25, told the German newspaper Bild on Friday. Since then it has emerged other referees and players may have been involved. Mr Hoyzer, who says he made more than €50,000 (£35,000) from match-fixing, said he was present when other referees were bribed to fix matches, and told prosecutors he had heard of similar payments to players. Police made four arrests on Friday.

In August last year, Mr Hoyzer, a rising talent in German refereeing circles, bet that third division Paderborn would beat the Bundesliga side SV Hamburg. The German Cup first-round game should have been a straightforward assignment for Hamburg, until Mr Hoyzer sent off one of their strikers for "insulting behaviour".

Then, on the slimmest of pretexts, he awarded two match-winning penalties to Paderborn. Some reports said Mr Hoyzer even reassured the Paderborn players of their imminent victory. "The Hamburgers can do what they want, they don't stand a chance," he allegedly told them at half-time. Paderborn went on to win 4-2.

Mr Hoyzer, who has quit as a referee, confessed to manipulating at least three games. German football officials are currently reviewing videos of all 27 senior matches he has handled. "His confession has simply stunned me," one German soccer manager said last week.

The scandal could not have come at a worse time for Germany. With just under 500 days to go until it stages the 2006 World Cup, the country's plans for the tournament already seem to be unravelling. There has been uproar that only a third of the 2.9 million tickets available will be sold to ordinary fans, while Berlin's Olympic Stadium, revamped at a cost of €242m (£167m), has hit the headlines after the firm that fitted it with new folding seats threatened to remove more than 5,000 of them because it hadn't been fully paid.

"The World Cup is just over a year away and German football, and with it the DFB, are in the spotlight," Fifa president Sepp Blatter warned in a letter to the DFB. Such unflattering attention will no doubt displease the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, who is counting on the World Cup to boost positive feeling in an election year.

As newspaper editorials called for the game to be cleaned up, Mr Zwanziger appealed to fans not to boo referees and "to treat them with respect". To avoid any taint of this weekend's fixtures, referees for all matches were switched at the last minute.