Interpol called in over 15 'rigged' football matches

Games that show suspicious betting patterns are itemised in 96-page dossier officials have handed to police. By David Connett
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The Independent Online

Police are investigating allegations that results in as many as 15 football matches had been fixed, it was claimed yesterday. The allegations are contained in a 96-page dossier handed by Uefa, the European football association, to Interpol last month, according to Uefa sources. The matches under suspicion also include Champions League qualifiers and Uefa Cup qualifiers.

It is understood the dossier passed to police features games that date back to July 2005. Initial reports suggested that one of the games involved was a qualifier for the 2008 European Championships.

However, in a statement last night, Uefa said: "There are no investigations under way into any of the qualifying matches for Euro 2008."

News of the investigation came as Uefa officials and coaches gathered in Lucerne for today's draw for Euro 2008 to be played in Switzerland and Austria. Earlier this week, Uefa began an inquiry into an Intertoto Cup match between Cherno More of Bulgaria and Macedonia's Makedonija last July, which the Bulgarians won 4-0. The Bulgarian club have denied any wrongdoing. "It's an extremely unpleasant case but we think that the charges are unwarranted," Cherno More's lawyer, Mihail Staev, said.

The vast sums now being gambled on football matches leave the game vulnerable to match fixing and corruption, officials fear. Uefa has held confidential talks with Europe's biggest betting organisation, European Lotteries. Jeerd Veensra, a senior Dutch lottery official and an executive committee member of European Lotteries, admitted his organisation had worked closely with Uefa to monitor betting patterns on football throughout Europe.

He said they had passed on details of matches which they believe to have been suspect in the past two years. "We've contacted them about more than 15 matches. It's up to Uefa to identify these clubs, not us. They're all leading clubs in their respective countries. All we can do when match fixing is suspected is to suspend betting, which we have done in the past."

The allegations were reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel. It alleged the vast majority of the clubs involved came from countries in eastern and south-eastern Europe, with Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and the Baltic states among those named.

Graham Bean, the Football Association's former compliance chief, said: "They are exceptionally serious allegations if the stories are correct, but they will be extremely difficult to investigate. I can't remember anything on this scale before. For something of this magnitude and these types of games, this is potentially one of the most serious things that has happened in world football."

Several match-fixing scandals have beset the game in recent years. In November 2005, former German league referee Robert Hoyzer was jailed after being found guilty of rigging 23 matches on behalf of a Croatian betting syndicate.

He was jailed for 29 months and banned from football for life. In Italy, several clubs were relegated from the top league after a match-fixing investigation. An investigation into similar allegations in Poland has led to 42 arrests over the past 18 months, with one official accused of fixing up to 40 matches.

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