Police in Ukraine have accused most of the country’s professional football clubs of match-fixing and launched a series of raids as Kiev prepares to host the Champions League final on Saturday.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said 35 clubs took part in betting scams with total profits of about $5 million a year as players and referees were threatened or bribed up to 100,000 hryvnya ($3,800) to ensure a result in 57 games.
Ahead of the game between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Avakov said the raids show that “football must be fair play.”
A presentation given by the police accused Vorskla Poltava and Zorya Luhansk, who finished third and fourth in the Ukrainian Premier League, of involvement in match-fixing.
Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kiev, who finished first and second, respectively, and have won every league title since 1993, were not accused.
Many of the cases seem to involve lower-league teams whose matches are rarely televised, making any fix harder to detect. Police aired what they said were recordings of conversations between club officials and referees discussing match-fixing.
Speaking on Tuesday, Avakov said suspects could face charges of bribery and match-fixing.
Vorskla Poltava and Zorya Luhansk face being removed from the Europa League by UEFA, which can disqualify clubs implicated in match-fixing. Vorskla Poltava has direct entry into the group stage and Zorya Luhansk is in the third qualifying round.
“UEFA was aware of the investigation and continues to support the [Ukraine football federation] in its coordination with Ukrainian public authorities in taking this important action in the fight against match-fixing,” the organisation said in a statement.
UEFA monitors betting on more than 30,000 games a season in its own competitions and in European national leagues and cups.