Turkish season postponed amid match-fixing probe

AP, Monday 25 Jul 2011

Season delayed as high profile figures within Turkish football are arrested in connection with match-fixing allegations


The Turkish football federation pushed back the start of the season for more than a month on Monday amid a match-fixing probe that has incarcerated 30 suspects in jail, including the president of league champion Fenerbahce.

The postponement came just a few hours after Turkish federation president Mehmet Aydinlar met the prosecutor in charge of the investigation about the alleged fixing of 19 games.

Aydinlar said the Super League would now start September 9 with the Bank Asya league beginning the next day. The season had been due to start in early August.

The scandal has shaken Turkish football. Along with Fenerbahce president Aziz Yildirim, officials from Istanbul club Besiktas and Black Sea team Trabzonspor have also been jailed, pending trial.

Fenerbahce won 16 of 17 league matches in the latter part of last season to come from a distant third place and claim a record 18th title, beating Trabzonspor on goal difference.

Angry Fenerbahce fans took to the streets in violent protests against the detention of club officials with the team at risk of losing its title.

The decision to postpone the start of the league came despite warnings by Fenerbahce that such a decision would further harm the club, which has already lost millions of dollars after its shares plunged in the stock market.

Turkish authorities, meanwhile, are also looking into the suspicious movement of Fenerbahce shares and those of other clubs on the Istanbul stock market last season.

Last Thursday, hundreds of angry Fenerbahce fans invaded the field at Sukru Saracoglu stadium in the second half of a friendly against Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk, forcing the abandonment of the game.

Fenerbahce fans—some wearing masks and T-shirts bearing the picture of Yildirim—also attacked media representatives for what they regard as critical media coverage of the fixing probe.

The federation described the incidents as “unacceptable,” leading to speculation in the media on Monday that it could decide against allowing a match between Turkey and Germany on Oct. 7 to be played at the same stadium. The federation, however, said there has been “no decision on where the match would be played.”

The federation so far has refrained from taking any disciplinary measures against Fenerbahce or Trabzonspor, allowing them to compete in the Champions League.

Turkey is the latest country to be affected by a slew of match-fixing and betting scandals around the globe, from South Korea to Zimbabwe.

The Turkish government has promised to be tough on match-fixing, introducing legislation three months ago to confront hooliganism and cheating in football, which includes a maximum 12-year prison sentence for fixing games.

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