Football: Bernes forced to face his accusers

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The Independent Online
THE Marseille corruption inquiry reaches a crucial stage today when Jean-Pierre Bernes, the general secretary of the French and European champions, comes face to face with four players who have accused him of bribery.

Bernes has denied any role in the payment of a bribe of 250,000 francs (pounds 30,000) paid by the Marseille midfielder, Jean-Jacques Eydelie, to three Valenciennes players - although all have named him as the instigator.

If Bernes, who has been in custody for two weeks, admits to a judge in Valenciennes that he was involved in the attempt to 'fix' Marseille's 1-0 French League victory over Valenciennes on 20 May, Fifa, world football's governing body, suggested that the club would be banned from next season's European Cup.

Sepp Blatter, the general secretary of Fifa, has said: 'Should it emerge that Eydelie was working under the orders of Bernes, the European champions would be banned internationally . . . immediately.' Fifa can overrule Uefa, Europe's governing body.

The investigating magistrate, Bernard Beffy, said he hoped that today's confrontation would 'clarify everyone's position'.

Eydelie has testified that he handed over the money at Bernes' behest and a Valenciennes player, Christophe Robert, has said he accepted it after Bernes spoke to him and his team- mates, Jacques Glassmann and Jorge Burruchaga, by telephone.

'I hope the truth will finally emerge and that (Bernes) will acknowledge it was he who made the phone call,' Glassmann said. Investigators have traced calls from Bernes' hotel room to the hotel where the Valenciennes players were staying.

Marseille are due to play the Greek champions, AEK Athens, in the first round of the European Cup.