Football: Bernes denies accusations of match-rigging

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The Independent Online
THE MAN at the middle of the Marseille bribery saga, the French club's general-manager, Jean-Pierre Bernes, has insisted that he is innocent of all charges of match-rigging, and has claimed that he has been framed, writes Rupert Metcalf.

Bernes said, in an interview on Friday, that he did not try to bribe three Valenciennes players before a league match in May, which Marseille won 1-0 on the way to retaining the French title. He had been released from custody on Thursday after maintaining his innocence in a showdown with his accusers, the Valenciennes players Jacques Glassmann, Christophe Robert and Jorge Burruchaga, and the Marseille player Jean-Jacques Eydelie.

Bernes called on the investigating magistrate, Bernard Beffy, 'to deploy the same efforts as those used against Marseille to investigate a real motive for fiddling the match'. He also questioned the decision by Eydelie suddenly to change his story.

Eydelie had originally denied any involvement in the alleged bribery, in which the three Valenciennes players were supposedly given 250,000 francs (about pounds 30,000) to throw the match, but on 12 July he said he had acted as a middleman, under the instructions of Bernes. The money was discovered buried in Robert's garden.

'One day, I will reveal everything about the methods used against me and Marseille during this affair,' Bernes said. 'There is no material evidence against me. There are so many red herrings, all of which were invented with the aim of destabilising (the club) and to make those in detention crack under pressure.

'As for the money, only people in Valenciennes believe that Robert, in debt and overdrawn at the bank, would have let 250,000 francs lie buried in a garden for six weeks.' Bernes has been in a clinic and then a prison hospital, being treated for depression, since the affair blew up.

Marseille may find out this week if the league - which has decided not to wait for the conclusion of legal proceedings - is to impose any punishment over the allegations.

Meanwhile Marseille beat Lens 1-0 on the opening day of the new French league season at their Stade Velodrome home last night with Bernes treating himself to a lap of honour before the game, blowing kisses to the cheering 40,000 crowd. Basile Boli, who scored their European Cup final winner, was the man on target again last night.