Panel set to tackle betting corruption

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The Independent Football

The sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, will this morning begin to assemble an "anti-corruption" panel of experts from British sports governing bodies, the gambling industry, the police, the legal profession and the Gambling Commission to work on a strategy to combat betting-related corruption.

The move is a response to the recent claim by a coalition of all the major sports that gambling presents a greater threat than doping to sport in Britain, as reported exclusively in The Independent earlier this month. The aim of the panel, which will involve "six to 10" senior figures will, according to a Whitehall source, "be to ensure better communication in the fight to tackle corruption head-on".

The development comes as Uefa, the European governing body, yesterday charged a Macedonian club, FK Pobeda, as well as its president and one senior player, of being "in breach of the principles of integrity and sportsmanship". They are accused of fixing a Champions League qualifier on 13 July 2004 against FC Pyunik of Armenia "to gain an undue advantage for themselves and a third party". FK Pobeda lost 3-1 at home against opponents who played with 10 men for more than half the game. If found the club are guilty, punishments could include a €1m (£940,000) fine, bans for individuals, and indefinite suspensions from European competition.

A Uefa statement said: "The charge is based on reports from the betting industry on irregular betting patterns and the declarations of several witnesses." Uefa's control and disciplinary body will deal with the case on 17 April.

A source said the Pobeda player involved was "capable of exerting significant influence on the pitch", adding an investigation lasting several years "points to corruption of this match by an external network for betting purposes with the assistance of insiders".

Uefa and Interpol are investigating 21 other "suspect" games in the Champions League, Uefa Cup and European Championship.