German referee jailed for two years

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Germany's football authorities welcomed the conviction yesterday of the referee at the centre of the country's biggest match-fixing scandal for 30 years. However, the embarrassment of next summer's World Cup hosts could be far from over.

While Robert Hoyzer was sentenced to two years and five months in jail in a trial which also brought convictions for another referee and the three Croatian brothers involved in the betting operation, a further 19 players and officials are still being investigated as prosecutors continue their inquiries into the scandal. Hoyzer, who is appealing against his sentence and will remain free until his case is heard, is also threatening to write a book.

Moreover, a separate trial involving a former player, Steffen Karl, continues next week. Karl, who played for Borussia Dortmund and appeared in a Uefa Cup final, is alleged to have been part of the match-rigging scam but denies ever deliberately trying to throw a game.

When news of the scandal first broke in January there were fears that Hoyzer's trial would not be over until next year, perhaps even clashing with the World Cup. The 26-year-old referee's decision to co-operate with the investigation spared what prosecutors said could have been "an unbearable and drawn-out marathon trial", but did not preserve his freedom.

Prosecutors had sought only a suspended sentence in the light of the referee's confession, but the presiding judge, Gerti Kramer, said that his was "not a youthful misdemeanour but a serious crime". She highlighted the fact that he had also recruited other officials and added: "He violated his important duty of neutrality."

While the rigged matches earned the betting ring at least ¤2m (about £1.4m), Hoyzer's reward was just ¤67,000 (£47,000) and a new television set. The referee had befriended Ante Sapina, an obsessive gambler and the mastermind of the betting scam, at a Berlin bar run by the Croat's elder brother, Milan.

It was during a drunken evening at the bar in May last year that the two men discussed fixing matches. In court, each accused the other of hatching the actual plot, in which Hoyzer fixed or sought to fix nine matches. Hoyzer told the court he found the idea that so much money could be won through gambling, "utopian". He admitted he had developed a love of money. In the most notorious incident Sapina made more than ¤750,000 (£525,000) after Hoyzer awarded two controversial penalties to help Paderborn, a regional league side, come from two goals down to beat Hamburg 4-2 in the German Cup. Hoyzer also sent off the Bundesliga side's striker Emile Mpenza.

The court was told that Hoyzer was helped by Thijs Waterink, the captain of Paderborn, also said to have been paid by Sapina. The referee told the court he approached Waterink during the game and said: "Come on, Wate, do something." Shortly afterwards, he said, Waterink collapsed in the penalty area and Hoyzer pointed to the spot.

On another occasion, Sapina won ¤870,000 (£610,000) on a Second Division game between Karlsruhe and Duisburg refereed by Dominik Marks, the other official convicted yesterday. Marks, 30, who was accused of earning ¤36,000 (£25,000) through his involvement in four games, was given a suspended sentence of 18 months. He had denied the charges.

Ante Sapina, who was jailed for two years and 11 months, is appealing against his sentence. His brothers, 38-year-old Filip and 40-year-old Milan, were given one-year and 16-month suspended sentences respectively for helping with the criminal operation.

The Sapina brothers were also charged yesterday by Greek authorities with fraud and money-laundering involving a Uefa Cup match between Panionios and Dynamo Tbilisi last December.

Comments