BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s top two Bundesliga divisions are seemingly not affected by a global match-fixing scandal that has involved hundreds of games across several continents, the German Football League (DFL) president said on Tuesday.
Hundreds of soccer matches have been fixed in a global betting scam run from Singapore, police said on Monday, in a blow to the image of the world’s most popular sport and a multi-billion dollar industry.
About 680 suspicious matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides, were identified in an inquiry by European police forces, the European anti-crime agency Europol, and national prosecutors.
“According to our knowledge the Bundesliga and the second Bundesliga are not affected,” DFL President Reinhard Rauball said.
“But those who know that the betting business has a turnover of not thousands or millions but billions can suspect that criminals will set up their business there and profit from it,” he told reporters.
Germany has had its share of match-fixing scandals in the past decade with former referee Robert Hoyzer convicted and jailed for fixing matches in 2005 on behalf of a criminal group led by Ante Sapina, who was sentenced to almost three years in prison.
The Croatian and his brother Milan were again arrested four years later when they were involved in a Europe-wide match-fixing affair in 2009 that also saw several dozen German games, mainly in lower divisions, rigged or suspected of having been rigged.
“What is important for us is that the authorities pursue this matter intensively,” Rauball said.
The German Bundesliga is experiencing a boom with the top 18 clubs posting a record turnover of more than 2 billion euros ($2.71 billion) for the 2011/12 season.
With 44,293 spectators on average per Bundesliga game - about 2,000 more than the previous season - the German league is the world leader, well ahead of powerhouses England and Spain. ̀
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Mark Meadows