Football: Bernes resigns after lap of honour

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JEAN-PIERRE BERNES, Marseille's general manager, resigned yesterday saying he wanted to help save the club from 'destruction' over bribery accusations made against him.

Bernes, who has been charged with corruption, said: 'Olympique Marseille cannot remain a hostage to those, who, through me, want above all the destruction of the club.' The resignation of Bernard Tapie's right- hand man came on the morning after he was given a hero's welcome by 40,000 defiant supporters at the club's Velodrome stadium.

Bernes, conditionally released from prison custody on Thursday, ran a lap of honour and blew kisses to the crowd. Some fans held up an 80-yard banner proclaiming: 'Fiers d'etre marseillais' (Proud to be Marseillais).

Journalists from both state television channels, France-2 and France-3 were barred from entering the ground and a journalist from France-2 suffered a head injury after being attacked outside.

Bernes, who is accused of orchestrating an attempt to bribe three Valenciennes players to throw a match against Marseille on 20 May, said ill-health was also a factor in his stepping down.

Jorge Burruchaga, one of three Valenciennes players approached, claimed he had been able to establish positively it was Bernes who had offered him a bribe in a telephone conversation.

Bernes said on Friday none of the Valenciennes players could be sure to have actually spoken to him.

But Burruchaga said: 'Of course I spoke to Bernes on the telephone. To make sure it was really him, I said: 'You're ringing me now but in 1988 you didn't thank me for giving you the telephone number of Diego Maradona's manager.' (Marseille tried to sign Maradona from Napoli in 1988).

'We were the only ones to know about that. He even asked me if I was still annoyed about it. That's definite proof that it was him. He asked me to take my foot off the gas, to let OM win.'

Basile Boli got the champions off to a winning start with the only goal against Lens.