The head of Turkey's main football body has said that although some individuals tried their hand at fixing Turkish football matches last season, these attempts do not “reflect on the pitch” in a highly disputable decision that drew angry remarks from some football clubs' presidents.
At a press conference in Antalya on Monday morning, Turkish Football Federation (TFF) head Yıldırım demirören stated that the match-fixing alleged to have taken place during the previous season did not affect what happened on the pitch. Turkey is still reeling over the major match-fixing investigation, in which 93 defendants, including leading football officials and players, are being tried in a case that has cast a shadow over the country's multi-billion dollar league.
Demirören said the TFF's Ethics Committee submitted a report to the TFF on Thursday in which it shared the results of an investigation into alleged match-fixing in Turkish Super League matches last season. In its initial investigation, the Ethics Committee had said there was strong evidence of match-rigging in last season's games. However, the committee consisted of different members prior to Demirören's election as TFF head.
The TFF head said the football federation has decided to refer 16 clubs to the Professional Football Discipline Committee (PFDK), a disciplinary body that is also part of the TFF, in relation to 22 league matches played last year. Demirören, the former chairman of the Beşiktaş Football Club, some of whose officials and players are also implicated in the match-rigging scandal, said referring the clubs to the PFDK is not an attempt to intervene in the ongoing judicial process regarding the match-fixing allegations but serves only to provide clubs a way to avoid paying for the wrongful actions of individuals. Demirören also said the TFF has changed Article 58 of the federation's disciplinary regulations.
Article 58 was amended to include point deduction as a possible penalty for match-rigging as opposed to the previous version of the article, which only allowed for the relegation of a team involved in match-fixing cases. Demirören said Article 58 in its previous form was too harsh on clubs and placed the blame on the clubs for the illegitimate actions of individuals. He added that the PFDK has 48 hours to decide whether the 16 clubs, including top teams Fenerbahçe, Trabzonspor, Beşiktaş and Galatasaray, had attempted to fix matches last season.
The changes to the disciplinary regulations posted on the federation website also stated that individuals who attempt to fix matches will be barred from playing or working at a club for up to three years. Individuals who influence the result on the pitch face a lifetime ban. Answering a question on the TFF’s talks with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) regarding Article 58, Demirören said the UEFA felt Turkish football agencies should make the call on any amendments.
Recalling that Fenerbahçe recently withdrew a lawsuit it had filed with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the TFF and the UEFA, Demirören said the decision to drop the case was the team’s own decision and that there had been no talks with the club to convince it to drop the case.
In January, the TFF barred Fenerbahçe from participating in the Champion’s League. Fenerbahçe later took both the TFF and the UEFA to the CAS over it is exclusion from the league, with its executive board member, Ali Koç, and chairman, Aziz Yıldırım, referring to the CAS case as being for “our honor.” However, shortly before the Ethics Committee announced its decision, Fenerbahçe executives announced their decision to drop the case, leading to suspicion that the club may have struck a deal with both the TFF and the UEFA for a lesser punishment.
Journalist Mehmet Baransu has claimed that Fenerbahçe signed a document promising it will not participate in any UEFA cups next year. This claim has not yet been confirmed or denied by Fenerbahçe officials.
Angry reactions from Trabzonspor and Galatasaray were issued immediately after the press conference. Trabzonspor Chairman Sadri Şener asked, “What instrument of measure did they use to decide there was no influence of match fixing on the pitch?”
He was exasperated his club had been referred to the PFDK. “We are a team that has represented Turkey in Europe. It is wrong for us to be treated like Fenerbahçe and referred to the PFDK.” He vowed to appeal the TFF decision with the UEFA.
Şener said the TFF has no legal basis on which to change Article 58. Both Trabzonspor and Galatasaray called extraordinary assembly meetings to decide on a strategy regarding the TFF’s final decisions.
Meanwhile, Mehmet Ali Aydınlar, former head of the TFF, also felt the UEFA would reject the TFF’s findings regarding the match-fixing allegations and the amendment to Article 58.
The match-fixing investigation concerns claims that some club officials and football players rigged games in the Bank Asya League 1 and the Spor Toto Super League, which ended in May of last year with Fenerbahçe winning the trophy. In July 2011, police raided homes and football club premises, detaining 60 people suspected of fixing matches in those two Turkish leagues last season.
Many high-ranking football officials from various Turkish clubs, including Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş, have been arrested on charges of fraud and match fixing. A total of 31 individuals, including agents, former football players and club managers, were arrested in two waves of the probe, with Fenerbahçe Chairman Yıldırım being the highest-profile figure taken into custody. Most of these suspects have been released, including Beşiktaş coach Tayfur Havutçu.