UEFA seeks life ban in match-fixing case

UEFA seeks life ban in match-fixing case

ZURICH - The Associated Press
UEFA seeks life ban in match-fixing case

This file photo from March 30, 2005 shows Kevin Sammut (L) against Croatia’s Marko Babic. Sammut is facing a lifetime ban from the UEFA for match-fixing. EPA photo

UEFA sought a life ban for Malta player Kevin Sammut yesterday by appealing its own ruling of a 10-year suspension for him helping to fix a European Championship qualifying match in a betting scam.

Sammut denies involvement with Europe’s most notorious match-fixing gang in June 2007, and has also appealed to UEFA to overturn his ban.

The 31-year-old player was found guilty by UEFA’s disciplinary panel guilty last month of helping to corrupt Malta’s 4-0 loss in Norway in a Euro 2008 qualifier.

“We confirm that the UEFA disciplinary inspector and the player Kevin Sammut have lodged an appeal against the first decision,” UEFA said in a statement.

An appeal hearing date has yet to be set. Both parties could later launch further appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

UEFA President Michel Platini alerted world football in 2009 of the renewed threat posed by fixers, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter has called for officials and players caught corrupting matches to be expelled from the sport.

UEFA has not specified how it believes Sammut helped fix the match in Oslo.

The plot was detailed during a criminal trial last year in Bochum, Germany, by Marijo Cvrtak, a leading member of a Croatian gang headed by convicted match-fixer Ante Sapina.

Cvrtak claimed that he met three Malta players in their Oslo hotel who would arrange the fix.

In the match, Sammut was substituted at halftime when Malta trailed 1-0. Norway scored three late goals, boosting payouts on potential wagers placed on how many goals would be scored and the margin of Malta’s defeat.

Sammut’s teammates Kenneth Scicluna and Stephen Wellman, who both played the full 90 minutes, were also charged by UEFA.

UEFA cleared them last month because the evidence was “insufficient to take any disciplinary action.”
In the Bochum court, Sapina and Cvrtak were said to have made millions in betting profits by bribing referees, players and officials to help manipulate matches and results.

Cvrtak was found guilty on 26 counts of fraud and attempted fraud and was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in jail. Sapina, who was previously jailed in a 2005 German refereeing scandal, got the same sentence.

Sammut has been supported by the worldwide players’ union, FIFPro.

FIFPro has questioned whether UEFA was “sufficiently equipped for such a trial” and suggested that Sammut could have been pressured by an organized crime syndicate.

“A footballer does not often take the initiative for match-fixing. Indeed, it has frequently been clear that the player was the victim,” the union said last month. “It frequently emerges that more people, both within football and outside it, are involved in match-fixing. A case such as this is an enormous threat to the welfare of a player.”