Football: Portuguese officials imprisoned

A former Portuguese referee and the chairman of a First Division club were sentenced to prison yesterday for bribery.

Referee Jose Guimaro, who told journalists he would appeal, was given 15 months after being convicted by a court in the northern city of Matosinhos of accepting money to influence the outcome of matches.

The current chairman of the Leca club, Manuel Lopes Rodrigues, was sentenced to one year in prison, while two other men were given sentences of eight months. All four denied the charges which stemmed from a 1993 investigation into match-rigging.

Guimaro, 41, was arrested in June 1994 after months of investigations in which police searched the homes of several referees and club directors.

The case came to be known as the "case of the 500,000" after police found photocopies of a cheque for half a million escudos (pounds 2,000) in Guimaro's house. The prosection charged that the money was part of a two million escudo (pounds 8,000) payment by Lopes Rodrigues to Guimaro to favour Leca, who at the time were a Second Division club.

The court case came at a delicate time for Portuguese football, which has been shaken by a series of allegations of bribery and attempts to influence referees. Uefa, European football's governing body, is to probe allegations that the Portuguese champions, Porto, sought to bribe a referee 12 years ago before a European Cup-Winners' Cup match with Aberdeen.

Both Porto and the Romanian referee who took charge of the game in 1984 have denied the accusations but Uefa decided to investigate given the seriousness of the allegations made by a Portuguese businessman, who says he acted as go-between.

Porto are also at the centre of another controversy over a holiday in Brazil for referee Carlos Calheiros in the summer of 1995. The club has officially admitted that it picked up the bill for the holiday but says it did so without realising who it was for.

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