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Football officials convicted of sports corruption in Slovakia

The court has fined and sentenced 13 convicts to three years.

Defendants during a public hearing in the corruption case of SFZ delegates and referees at the Specialised Criminal Court in Pezinok on November 27, 2019Defendants during a public hearing in the corruption case of SFZ delegates and referees at the Specialised Criminal Court in Pezinok on November 27, 2019 (Source: TASR)

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A group of 13 football referees and delegates from the Central Slovak Football Federation have been found guilty of sports corruption.

Corruption occurred during several matches at lower league levels of the football pyramid in 2018, the TASR newswire reported on November 27.

The Specialised Criminal Court approved the October 4 plea bargain agreed on between the 13 football officials and a prosecutor from the Special Prosecutor’s Office at the end of November. Initially, they had all faced a jail sentence ranging from four to 10 years.

A ban, fine, and probation

“Corruption in football is a serious type of sports corruption due to the fact that football is one of the social phenomena in our country,” the prosecutor said after the court decided.

To uncover corruption involved in the football matches, 70 police officers partook in the “Delegate” operation last summer, in July 2018.

The National Criminal Agency (NAKA) then arrested 20 people during a seminar for football referees held in Banská Bystrica.

Based on the reached agreement imposing lenient punishments, a judge put all the convicts on three years of probation with a two-year suspension. The court also banned the 13 delegates and referees from football to two to five years. In addition, the convicts were ordered to pay a €200-€300 fine.

The prosecutor added that it is fair to hope that “a substantial number of people pleading guilty to corruption will have a preventive character for other potential offenders”.

Six football matches

The convicts engaged in corrupt behaviour during six football matches in the third, fourth, and fifth football leagues in central Slovakia between April and June 2018. One-off and repeated €25-€100 bribes were accepted in the referees’ locker room.

Although the 13 have been convicted, other bribers in this corruption scandal are or will be prosecuted separately. Some were already sentenced.

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