Fifa will act over German match-fixing, says Blatter

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The Independent Online

The governing body of world football is to take action against match-fixing in the wake of the deepening crisis in Germany. As prosecutors arrested Robert Hoyzer, the referee at the centre of the German scandal, and questioned him about offences in addition to those to which he has confessed, Fifa said it would discuss ways of combating match-rigging at its executive committee meeting next month.

The governing body of world football is to take action against match-fixing in the wake of the deepening crisis in Germany. As prosecutors arrested Robert Hoyzer, the referee at the centre of the German scandal, and questioned him about offences in addition to those to which he has confessed, Fifa said it would discuss ways of combating match-rigging at its executive committee meeting next month.

"I don't think it is only a national problem when a bribery affair involving a referee is uncovered," Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, said in Frankfurt, where he is attending a conference of potential World Cup referees. "Fifa is called upon. We have to take a stance."

Blatter said the key to the problem was the early detection of unusual betting patterns. Both Fifa and the German federation are discussing agreements with companies for "early warning systems" under which bookmakers can inform the football authorities of suspicious gambling activity. Bookmakers say they warned of a potential problem in Germany several months ago.

Hoyzer was arrested on Saturday and has been remanded in custody after prosecutors questioned him about new evidence suggesting he had knowledge of attempts to fix matches before those which he has confessed to rigging - or trying to rig - last year. He is being held on eight counts of suspected organised fraud, having confessed a fortnight ago to taking €67,000 (£48,000) in bribes to fix games last year in the lower leagues and German Cup. Three other men are also in custody as prosecutors investigate the activities of a Croatian betting ring.

"New evidence suggests that Robert Hoyzer was involved in crimes of a similar type with persons unknown prior to those in 2004 that he has already admitted to," Michael Grunwald, one of the Berlin prosecutors, said in a statement. He added that Hoyzer was facing "a hefty jail sentence" and "for that reason, there is a concrete risk of his absconding."

Ten matches are currently under suspicion, but a widening of the investigation could dash German football's hopes that the affair will be resolved before the country stages the World Cup next year. A fifth referee, Torsten Koop, has already been suspended for failing to tell the German federation until last week that Hoyzer had boasted to him about fixing games. Koop, an experienced Bundesliga referee, has not handled a game since August because of injury. Hoyzer has alleged that three other referees were also involved in match-fixing and says that in some cases he personally witnessed them taking bribes.

Another major problem for the German federation is appeals from clubs against the outcome of matches revealed to have been fixed. It may find it has opened the floodgates by agreeing on Friday to compensate Hamburg, whose German Cup game against Paderborn was rigged by Hoyzer. Hamburg will receive €2m (£1,430,000) and will be allowed to host an international friendly in October after withdrawing their appeal against the defeat by Paderborn.

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