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Soccer Match-Fixing Scandal: UEFA Names Five Suspected Clubs

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NYON, Switzerland — Five clubs in Albania, Latvia, Slovenia and Hungary are suspected in European soccer's biggest match-fixing investigation.

The European soccer governing body identified the clubs Wednesday as KF Tirana (Albania), KS Vllaznia (Albania), FC Dinaburg (Latvia), NK IB Llubljana (Slovenia) and Honved (Hungary). They allegedly fixed seven qualifying round games in the Champions League and Europa League between July 16 and Aug. 6.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino described match-fixing as a "cancer we need to eradicate." He said the seven matches were among 40 in continental club competitions previously identified as being under suspicion.

About 200 matches are being investigated in a criminal probe led from Bochum, Germany.

Infantino said UEFA opened its own investigation into the activities of three referees and one official connected to UEFA. No member of UEFA's administrative staff is suspected, he said.

"We don't know if this is the end of the story," Infantino said.

UEFA officials met Wednesday with national association leaders from the nine countries – Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey – to share information about the investigation.

"At the start people were certainly shocked about the magnitude (of the scandal)," Infantino said after the three-hour summit at UEFA headquarters. "At the end of the meeting there was much more reassurance because we are working together."

UEFA is cooperating with the Bochum prosecutor's office, which has targeted domestic league matches across nine countries. German-based betting syndicates are suspected of bribing players, coaches, referees and other officials to fix games. The suspected leaders are believed to have made at least $15 million, authorities say.

Police arrested 15 people in Germany last week, including Ante Sapina, a Croatian national who was convicted in Germany's match-fixing scandal in 2005 that involved referee Robert Hoyzer. Another man was arrested in Croatia on Tuesday.

UEFA will ask for access to the criminal case files and agreed with its nine national members not to disclose details of matches and people under suspicion.

Belgian FA general secretary Jean-Marie Philips said he has confidence in UEFA's handling of the investigation. In a joint statement, UEFA promised strong action against any player, referee or club official implicated.

"He will be out of football, this is very, very clear," Infantino said.

SC Verl, a fourth-tier German team, said Wednesday it has suspended two players suspected of manipulating two games. The players have not admitted to any wrongdoing.

A third player suspected in the match-fixing is no longer with the club, according to Verl president Jochen Scholz.

Swiss second-division clubs Gossau and Thun have both suspended a player who was questioned by police.

UEFA said soccer authorities would work with state justice departments to share information and file criminal complaints, acknowledging that its investigative powers could not tackle organized crime.

UEFA routinely monitors Europe's top divisions and domestic cup competitions for evidence of suspicious betting patterns.

Peter Limacher, its head of disciplinary service, said the betting fraud detection system had been widened across Europe in July and helped make the investigations possible.

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