Ukraine accuses most professional clubs of match-fixing

Ukraine accuses most professional clubs of match-fixing

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian police have accused most of the country‘s professional soccer clubs of match-fixing and launched a series of raids as the country prepares to host the Champions League final.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said 35 clubs took part in betting scams with total profits of about $5 million a year. He added players and referees were threatened or bribed up to 100,000 hryvnya ($3,800) to ensure the correct result in 57 games.

Ahead of Saturday‘s match between Real Madrid and Liverpool in Kiev, Avakov said the raids show that “football must be fair play.”

A presentation given by the police accused Vorskla Poltava and Zorya Luhansk, which finished third and fourth in the Ukrainian league, of involvement in match-fixing.

Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk, which have won every league title since 1993, were not accused.

Many of the cases seem to involve lower-league teams whose matches are rarely televised, making any fix harder to detect. Police aired what they said were recordings of conversations between club officials and referees discussing match-fixing.

Speaking on Tuesday, Avakov said suspects could face charges of bribery and match-fixing.

Vorskla Poltava and Zorya Luhansk face being removed from next season‘s Europa League by UEFA, which can disqualify clubs implicated in match-fixing. Vorskla Poltava has direct entry into the group stage and Zorya Luhansk is currently in the third qualifying round.

“UEFA was aware of the investigation,” the European soccer body said in a statement, “and continues to support the FFU (Ukraine soccer federation) in its coordination with Ukrainian public authorities in taking this important action in the fight against match-fixing.”

UEFA monitors betting on more than 30,000 games a season in its own competitions and European national leagues and cups.

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