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By ESPN Staff
Dec 30, 2006

Israeli match-fixing suspects to play league match

JERUSALEM, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Israeli second division outfit Hapoel Beer Sheva are set to field five players suspected of match fixing in their league clash on Saturday, the club said.

The five players were arrested and held briefly in police custody earlier this month on suspicion that they were paid to help fix the result of a league match two weeks ago so that punters could scoop a record pools prize of £4.9million.

The players are free to play because the Israeli State Attorney's office has refused the Israeli Football Association (IFA) permission to take disciplinary action against the players because of fears it could compromise the police investigation.

'Because of the State Attorney's position on this matter, the IFA will at this stage refrain from taking disciplinary action against the players,' the IFA said on its website.

The club also turned down a request by the IFA to sideline the players until the matter is resolved.

Six Beer Sheva players and 17 others are suspected of involvement in the attempt to fix the result, Israeli police said. No charges have yet been brought against any of the suspects.

As a result of the suspicions, second division matches have been left off Saturday's pools form. A record jackpot of 55 million shekels (about £6.6million) is on offer.

Match-fixing cases are not uncommon in Israeli soccer, particularly in the lower divisions.

In the last case, a referee was jailed for three years in October after being found guilty of trying to fix results in four separate second and third division matches between 1997 and 2000.

Yohanan Cibutaru was one of three soccer officials to be jailed in a case in which charges have been brought against 13 men. Some trials are still ongoing.