Former Norway international Erik Hagen has told Verdens Gang that he bribed officials during his time with Russian side Zenit St Petersburg.
Hagen, who played for Zenit between 2005 and 2008, told the newspaper that domestic results in the country were “agreed in advance” and said he once helped bribe a referee when Zenit played a UEFA Cup match.
“One of our players knew the ref,” he said. “That fact alone is dubious enough. We received some outrageous bonuses for victories in European games -- $12,000. Before the game, we were told to each give $3,000 to the referee.
“I stood up and said: ‘This is f---ing bulls---’ and that we were better than them anyway. The players decided to do it regardless.”
He said Zenit’s opponents were cheated out of four goals and that he, like the opposition, was left infuriated.
However, he admitted that he had also paid his $3,000, although he said: “A teammate came up to me and said that it would never happen again.”
Hagen also said that “all the refereeing decisions went in our favour” during the final 10 games of their 2007 campaign and said it was “quite embarrassing,” adding: “The previous season, it was the other way around.”
CSKA Moscow's 2006 title was overshadowed by widespread allegations of match-fixing, Reuters reported.
Hagen also conducted an interview with Sovetsky Sport but the former defender was vague about the allegations, saying he could not remember Zenit’s opponents in the UEFA Cup match or the identity of the referee. He said the game may have taken place in 2006 or 2007 but he could not be certain.
He continued: “It's not an attack on Zenit or its owners -- they are not responsible for players' actions. The players decided to bribe the referee, not the club.”
He also stated that he does not expect an investigation to start following his accusations. UEFA, meanwhile, told VG that it would not comment on individual matches.
The referee, who was not named, told the Norwegian tabloid that the allegations were “nonsense” and that he did not know any Zenit players or receive any offers to fix the match.
Zenit’s press officer, Evgeni Gusev, added that he was “deeply surprised” by the claims and insisted: “Let me assure you that Zenit have always abided by the principles of fair play and have always allowed results to be determined by what happens on the field of play.”
Evgeni Lovchev, a former USSR international who now works as a pundit, told Sovetsky Sport: “It's not the first time our football is accused like that. I remember that it was written how Zenit bribed Bayern ahead of the 2008 UEFA Cup semifinals. The problem is that Hagen doesn't say everything. Who told him to pay? Who knew the referee? Give us all the information if it's true.”
In 2008, Reuters reported that a Spanish judge sent German authorities recordings that alleged Russian mafia figures tried to fix the UEFA Cup semifinal with Bayern in which the Russian side progressed after a 4-0 win in the second leg in St Petersburg. Zenit firmly denied the allegations and were never found guilty.