Sport

Soccer: Fenerbahce’s ban deserved, but stronger governance still needed

By Antoinette Muller 29 August 2013

Fenerbahce will not be allowed any further participation in European football for the next two years. It’s a welcome development in what is a very complex case, but it is now up to UEFA and FIFA, if needs be, to further stamp their authority and ensure that the Turkish Football Federation gets its house in order. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

Fenerbahce will be without European competition football for two years after the Turkish club lost an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against a UEFA sanction for match-fixing. They were due to participate in the Europa League after failing to qualify for the Champions League, losing 5-0 on aggregate to Arsenal.

The UEFA Emergency Panel will meet on Thursday afternoon to decide on the consequences to go along with the ban. Fener was banned for three seasons in total, but the third was deferred for a probationary period of five years.

Lausanne-based CAS said in a statement it had dismissed appeals filed by Fenerbahce and Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv, barred by UEFA over involvement in a domestic match-fixing case dating back to 2008.

“Fenerbahce SK is excluded from two editions of the UEFA club competitions,” CAS said in its ruling following a two-day hearing held at its headquarters.

It’s a welcome development in an ongoing saga, but concerns remain over both the Turkish Football Federation and FIFA’s apparent disregard for what is happening to sport in the country.

It was the Turkish police who started the investigations into 19 games suspected of being fixed. UEFA eventually confirmed that they were monitoring the situation and now have to act mercilessly on those implicated in the scandal.

Soon after the Turkish police started their investigations, Istanbul BB player ?brahim Ak?n admitted that he was involved in fixing, naming two matches specifically – Istanbul’s match against Fenerbahçe, and the Turkish Cup final against Be?ikta? JK.

Documents relating to the investigation were eventually submitted to a prosecutor in July, with video evidence and around 12,000 pages of documentation all forming part of the investigation. The Turkish Football Federation was hesitant to impose any sanctions before the investigations by the police were concluded, but they were under pressure from UEFA to act. TFF eventually banned Fenerbahce from European participation for the 2011/12 season, but only at UEFA’s insistence.

TFF also dismissed two of their officials, professional Football Players Registration Director Haldun ?enman and Director of Football Development Communication Specialist Ali Kalender, on charges relating to theft and misconduct in the office.

Things got a bit more complicated after that. TFF had a meeting to discuss an amendment to article 58 of their disciplinary code relating to match-fixing. TFF proposed that the punishment be changed from a relegation ban and replaced with a point deduction and monetary penalties instead.

Galatasaray SK, Trabzonspor, Bursaspor and Orduspor rejected the notion, and both Galatasaray SK and Trabzonspor were sent to the Professional Football Disciplinary Board by TFF.

All clubs eventually rejected the federation’s proposal to spare clubs from relegation in January 2012 and by the end of January last year, president of the Turkish Football Federation, Mehmet Ali Ayd?nlar, and Vice Presidents of TFF, Göksel Gümü?da? and Lütfü Ar?bo?an, resigned from all duties.

Despite protests, resignations and a warning from UEFA, TFF went on to change the rules regarding penalties imposed for match-fixing and added an extra article which states that disciplinary action can be postponed. If it all sounds far too complicated and contradictory to comprehend, that’s because it is.

That’s one of the reasons why the ruling from the High Court is such a victory for football. It now remains to be seen what course of action TFF will take as they have largely shrugged their shoulders or haphazardly pretended to take responsibility. There is no doubt that UEFA will act mercilessly, but the Federation itself needs to get its house in order.

The clubs in Turkey are not the first and will not be the last teams to be implicated in such a scandal. Just a week ago, El Salvador’s football federation suspended 22 of its players for their alleged involvement in match fixing – just two of those players had not featured with the national team. The federation’s president, Carlos Mendez, insisted that these were not punishments, simply provisional precautionary measures.

El Salvador will not play any further matters until the issue is resolved. In July, players and officials in Nigeria, involved in a bizarre game where teams scored 79 and 67 goals, were banned for life, while their clubs were banned for 10 years.

Similarly, when the Italian football scandal of 2006 broke, the Italian Football Federation’s prosecutor, Stefano Palazzi, had strong words and recommendations for all those involved. All clubs were eventually punished, and while there were some appeals and the punishments were made somewhat lighter, action was clear and it sent a distinct message.

It’s perhaps obtuse to point out that it’s time for FIFA to take responsibility in Turkey. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the sport’s world governing body has been spineless in its approach.

Earlier this year, Turkey hosted the Under 20-FIFA World Cup, despite the tapestry of match fixing engrossing several clubs. FIFA were well aware of the situation before the start of the year and should have pulled the plug on the competition as punishment for the Turkish Football Federation’s ineptitude. Instead, it fed the coffers of an organisation showing absolutely no respect for the sport.

The Turkish Football Federation needs a serious shake up, that much is clear. It is up to UEFA and FIFA to ensure that it happens. DM

Photo: Fenerbahce fans light flares during the Turkish Super League derby soccer match against Galatasaray at Sukru Saracoglu stadium in Istanbul May 12, 2013. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

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