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Mar 15, 2006

New Germany scandal could be more serious

BERLIN, March 15 (Reuters) - A second match-rigging scandal in German soccer less than three months before the World Cup could be more serious than the initial investigation suggested.

Prosecutors in Munich were on Wednesday investigating media reports that several Bundesliga players, among them a German international, had been in contact with a betting ring.

'At the moment we can't say whether there is something to it or not,' a spokesman for the Munich prosecutors said of the reports by Bavarian television.

'We are collecting information before deciding whether to open preliminary proceedings.'

German World Cup organising committee president Franz Beckenbauer said he did not believe a Germany player could be involved.

'I cannot imagine that,' Beckenbauer told reporters in Berlin. 'They should earn enough money to stay away from adventures like that.'

Beckenbauer warned against speculating on whether there was any truth to the reports.

'But no matter whether it is true or not, things like these always have a destructive effect,' added the former World Cup-winning captain and coach.

In the television programme an unidentified man presented as an informer said he had attended a meeting between members of a betting ring and a Bundesliga player he did not name.

FOUR ARRESTED

'I was personally at one of those meetings and a Bundesliga player said: 'We will lose tomorrow.' Then he placed 10,000 euros against his team,' the man said.

Four people were arrested last week after an investigation by Frankfurt prosecutors into alleged match-rigging in the second division and regional league.

Players were approached and offered several thousand euros if they could influence the result of at least five games. In at least one case a payment was accepted, prosecutors said.

Investigators have targeted a second division game between Hansa Rostock and Sportfreunden Siegen won 2-0 by former Bundesliga side Rostock last month as well as four amateur regional league games.

The German Football Association (DFB) had said the new cases were not of the magnitude of last year's scandal involving Robert Hoyzer with no referee and no top-flight game involved.

Referee Hoyzer was sentenced to two years and five months in prison last November after admitting fixing several top-level matches in return for payment from a Croatian betting ring.

In the most notorious match-rigging incident, Hoyzer awarded regional league side Paderborn two penalties to help them come from two goals down to knock out first division Hamburg SV in the first round of the German Cup.

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