Fifa dishes out life bans, suspends Concacaf official

Fifa suspended Caribbean football official Lisle Austin for a year on Wednesday in the ongoing fallout from the presidential election bribery scandal, and banned six Hungarian and Bosnian match officials for life for helping fix international friendlies.

Fifa’s disciplinary committee suspended Austin—an ally of former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner—for breaking rules by taking his dispute with the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) confederation to a civil court in the Bahamas.

Austin can appeal.

The Barbados official became acting Concacaf president in May after Fifa provisionally suspended Warner for allegedly helping former presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam bribe Caribbean voters.

Concacaf suspended Austin days later when he tried to fire Chuck Blazer, the American general secretary who had alerted Fifa to alleged bribery. Austin then obtained an injunction from a Bahamas court allowing him to resume his duties—even though Fifa and Concacaf statutes prohibit the use of “ordinary courts” to settle disputes.

‘Passive corruption’
In a separate ruling, the six match officials were banned for helping fix two international friendlies for a betting scam that became a turning point in the Fifa’s fight against match-fixing.

All seven goals were scored from penalty kicks when Latvia played Bolivia and Bulgaria faced Estonia in a Feb. 9 double-header organized by a Singaporean fixer at Antalya, Turkey.

Crime syndicates are believed to have made millions of euros (dollars) betting on the fixed matches, including wagers that at least three goals would be scored in each match.
Latvia beat Bolivia 2-1 and Estonia and Bulgaria played out a 2-2 draw.

Fifa identified the officials as Kolos Lengyel, Janos Csak and Krisztian Selmeczi from Hungary, and Bosnians Sinisa Zrnic, Kenan Bajramovic, Rizah Ridalovic.

The officials were found guilty of “passive corruption” and “unlawfully influencing match results” by Fifa’s disciplinary committee, football’s world governing body said.

Banned for life
All six “have all been banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity [administrative, sports or any other] at national and international level for life,” Fifa said.

The Hungarian and Bosnian national federations had previously banned the low-ranking officials.

The Antalya case prompted Fifa to crack down on how international friendlies are organised

Fifa gave itself new powers to regulate matches—including veto powers over referee appointments—at its congress in June. The rules took effect on August 1 in time for around 50 international friendly matches scheduled to be played on Wednesday.

Fifa hopes it has now curbed a lucrative type of match-fixing that was revealed in Antalya and exposed loopholes in its rules.

Culprit still missing
The games were organised, and the match officials chosen, by a Thailand-based agency called Footy Sport International which used a Fifa-licensed agent from Russia to arrange the doubleheader.

Estonian officials alerted Fifa to its concerns ahead of its match because organisers would not give details of the match officials’ identity, but were advised to proceed and play.

The games were played in a near-empty stadium with meager television coverage, adding to concerns that organisers intended to profit from placing bets on fixed outcomes.

Fifa asked the four federations for their observations to help in its investigation.

Fifa believes that Singaporean businessman Anthony Santia Raj was key to organising the scam. He has not been traced.—Sapa-AP

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