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Referee admits he manipulated games
Robert Hoyzer withdraws his denials and says he influenced matches as part of a betting ring
| Aaron Kirchfeld
Public prosecutor Joachim Geyer knew he had a difficult case on his hands. One of Germany's professional soccer referees became the target of allegations this week that he had manipulated games on which he had bet, and Geyer was handed the preliminary job of examining the case.
"We've begun certain investigations," Geyer said on Monday. "But in this case, it's going to be difficult to attain evidence that will stand up in a court of law."
"The allegations made against me in public are basically true," Hoyzer said after meeting with his lawyers. "I sincerely regret my behavior and apologize to the German Soccer Federation, my referee colleagues and soccer fans."
The confession was the climax in a bad week for German soccer, which is facing its most serious crisis since the league was rocked by a game-fixing scandal in 1971.
The new scandal revolved around five games Hoyzer officiated and another game in which he is suspected of trying to influence a referee. The game with the highest stakes involves a contest in the German Cup on Aug. 21 between the first-division club SV Hamburg and SC Paderborn of the regional league. After falling behind 2-0, Paderborn came back and won the game 4-2 thanks to two penalty kicks and the ejection of a Hamburg player.
Hamburg management filed a complaint with the federation after the game and Germany's largest betting firm, Oddset, informed officials about an unusually high amount of bets that had been placed on Paderborn, especially in Berlin, Hoyzer's hometown. Police looked into the matter, but investigations did not provide sufficient evidence, said Theo Zwanziger, co-president of the German Soccer Federation.
The newest investigations began after four referees brought their concerns to the attention of the federation on Jan. 19. "We believe we acted in the interest of German soccer," according to a statement released by the four on Tuesday.
The officials said they had "indications, information and witness accounts" that a German Cup match and four other games in the second division may have been manipulated by Hoyzer. They stressed, however, that they "never accused Robert Hoyzer of betting on the games he officiated or of fraud and did not provide any other background information or involve any other persons."
On Tuesday, Hoyzer said he was disappointed that his colleagues would suspect him of manipulation. "I did not deceive anyone," he told the TV.Berlin television station.
But on Thursday, Hoyzer unexpectedly admitted to manipulating the games to win bets. He said he volunteered to be the key witness for the public prosecutor's office in Berlin, which took over the case from Braunschweig because Hoyzer was living in the capital when the matches took place.
In a television interview, he said he received a "five-figure sum" for the manipulation and that there were a number of people involved in the scam. But he did not specify who was a part of the ring. Various media organizations have reported that Hoyzer had connections with "Croatian betting rings."
Some of the teams affected by the manipulation have already demanded compensation. The German Soccer Federation has said the games will not be replayed.
Among the possible victims is Klaus Toppmöller, who was fired as Hamburg's coach a few games after the team was eliminated from the German Cup tournament. "The ref cost me my job," he said in the weekly Bild am Sonntag. "We were doing fine until the loss against Paderborn. Then everything went downhill."
This is not the first time this season where allegations of a fixed soccer game were made. In December, betting agencies notified officials that an extraordinarily high amount of money was wagered on a second division game between FC Erzgebirge and Rot-Weiss Oberhausen. Betters placed huge sums on Erzgebirge, which won 2-0 thanks to an own goal by Oberhausen and a penalty kick. A special committee reviewed the game but came to the conclusion that there was not enough evidence to launch an official investigation.
Oberhausen asked prosecutors in Duisburg to examine the case. But a spokesman for the office said this week that investigators had little to go on.