Football corruption scandal deepens on eve of new season

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Football is known to its fans as 'the beautiful game', but in the Czech league things have been looking rather ugly to say the least in the last few months. In May the world of Czech football was rocked by its biggest corruption scandal ever, with several referees and club officials arrested over match-fixing allegations. Now, on the very eve of the new football season, the crisis has deepened.

The club at the centre of the original match-fixing scandal have since changed their name from Synot to Slovacko and - to the surprise of many - been allowed to stay in the first division. But Slovacko were fined half a million crowns (around 15,000 euros) and docked 12 points from the new season when the Czech football association found the club guilty of bribing referees.

Ivan Hornik, the chairman of Viktoria Zizkov, photo: CTK
Police launched investigations into several other clubs during the summer, but there was nothing like Thursday's dramatic events, when 17 people were charged. Sixteen of those being questioned are delegates and referees, among them one of the most highly respected Czech refs, Evzen Amler, who has officiated at two World Cups. The other person charged on Thursday was Ivan Hornik, the flamboyant perma-tanned chairman of Prague club Viktoria Zizkov.

The latest development in the football corruption affair could not have come at a worse time, just two days before the start of the new season. All the officials charged on Thursday have been suspended for this weekend's games at least, leading to speculation that there will not be enough officials to take charge of all fixtures.

But FA chief Jan Obst says he thinks enough qualified refs can be found by Saturday. Either way, with investigations still going on at five first division clubs (including Sparta Prague), the corruption scandal which has hit Czech football looks set to run for some time.