NYON, Switzerland, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Turkish soccer must act quickly and take disciplinary action over a match-fixing scandal that has ensnared some of the country’s top clubs and cast a shadow over the domestic season, UEFA official Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday.
The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) was due to meet on Thursday for an extraordinary general meeting amid expectations that it will act to address the allegations raised by the continuing court investigation into match-fixing.
The scandal erupted last July when police detained 60 people in raids across Turkey including Aziz Yildirim, the chairman of league champions Fenerbahce, and other major figures in the highly lucrative domestic league.
“I think it is important that the Turkish FA is taking decisions, the right decisions, with regards to this whole match-fixing situation,” UEFA general secretary Infantino told a news conference at the European governing body’s headquarters.
He said the Turkish federation could not just wait until criminal proceedings were finalised, which could take years.
“The disciplinary proceedings from the sporting side, they need to go fast, because it is important that the integrity and regularity of the competition is guaranteed as soon as possible,” Infantino said.
He told Reuters that at the end of last year UEFA had not ruled out excluding clubs caught up in the match-fixing scandal from future European competitions.
After the scandal broke, the TFF excluded Fenerbahce from this season’s Champions League, with runners-up Trabzonspor taking part in their place.
In December a Turkish court issued an indictment against 93 officials and players, including Yildirim and Olgun Peker, an ex-president of second division club Giresunspor, who are both accused of being gang leaders among a raft of charges ranging from match-fixing to the payment of bribes.
The indictment names eight clubs, including Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Trabzonspor, who are currently in the Europa League. Fourteen players are among the defendants.
Disputes over the match-fixing allegations were fuelled last month when parliament passed a law cutting prison sentences for match-rigging from a maximum 12 years to three years.
The legal reform stirred rare dissent in Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK party but MPs defied a call by President Abdullah Gul to reconsider the reform.
He argued that it would mean the law no longer represented a sufficient deterrent and encouraged the view that it was passed to benefit certain individuals.
Controversy was further fuelled by the TFF’s work on revising its own regulations, proposing to deduct points from clubs allegedly involved in match-fixing rather than relegating them.
The first hearing in the court case is scheduled for Feb. 14.
The court investigation has alleged manipulation in 19 matches, including Fenerbahce’s 4-3 victory over Sivasspor which saw them clinch the league championship on the final day of last season when the allegations first surfaced. (Reporting by Vincent Fribault and Signe Grejsen Nissen, Writing by Daren Butler, Editing by Mike Collett and Ken Ferris)