Players banned in Turkish match-fixing probe

ISTANBUL Mon May 7, 2012 2:30pm IST

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's football disciplinary committee left leading clubs unpunished on Monday over match-fixing allegations, imposing bans of between one and three years on 10 players and officials in a move that will be closely scrutinised by UEFA.

Gaziantepspor midfielder Ibrahim Akin, who was with Buyuksehir Bld. Spor when accused, was banned for three years with Ankaragucu goalkeeper Serdar Kulbilge given a two-year ban.

The decision was taken while a criminal trial, involving 93 defendants including the chairman of champions Fenerbahce, was still underway.

Shares in Fenerbahce, Turkey's richest club, surged 10 percent after the announcement on the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) website early on Monday, although its chairman Aziz Yildirim is currently in jail pending a verdict.

Fenerbahce shares were also boosted by the Istanbul-based club's improved chances of retaining the league title after Sunday's matches.

The disciplinary board said there was no punishment for Yildirim himself, while three other Fenerbahce executives were banned from football for one to three years.

The ruling, which came ahead of the final games of the season, was a key step in resolving an investigation which has cast a dark shadow over the multi-billion dollar league.

However, the outcome of the federation's investigation will be closely analysed by European football's ruling body UEFA amid previous expectations that clubs could face relegation or exclusion from Europe over the allegations.

Fenerbahce, who were barred from the Champions League this season due to its alleged involvement in the scandal, dropped a court case last week against UEFA and the TFF over its exclusion from the tournament.

Fenerbahce will host city rivals Galatasaray next Saturday in a match which will determine this year's champions. Galatasaray are currently leaders in the league playoffs on 47 points, ahead of Fenerbahce on 46.

Ahead of the disciplinary board's decision, the federation had softened the punishment for match-fixing, ruling that clubs caught unsuccessfully trying to fix matches would only face points' deductions rather than relegation.

Clubs had previously voted against such a change in the regulations and Galatasaray, which was not named in the match-fixing indictment, had condemned the rule change and called for the resignation of the federation leadership.

A previous TFF chairman and his two deputies resigned in frustration in January over the federation's failure to agree on how to punish clubs caught up in the scandal. Former Besiktas chairman Demiroren was elected as the TFF chairman in February.

The scandal erupted last July when police carried out raids against those accused of involvement in rigging 13 matches, including Fenerbahce's 4-3 victory over Sivasspor which clinched the league championship on the final day of last season.

The indictment names eight clubs, including Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Trabzonspor. Fourteen players are among the defendants.

The TFF launched its own investigation, and 22 separate Super League games were referred to the disciplinary committee.

Fenerbahce's Yildirim denies the charges against him and says the case was specifically designed to undermine the 18-times domestic champions.

(Writing by Daren Butler. Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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