Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country’s top soccer league has struggled with match fixing, said that perpetrators and not teams should be punished.
Speaking at a meeting of European soccer body UEFA in Istanbul, Erdogan said it’s not fair to fans when clubs are penalized. Turkish champion Fenerbahce was banned from the Champions League this season after team President Aziz Yildirim was arrested on charges of fixing games.
“We have to identify the difference between individuals and legal entities,” Erdogan said at the Istanbul Congress Center. “If a legal entity is punished for the crime of an individual, millions of people would be punished.”
Executives, coaches, players, journalists and former officials have been jailed as part of a police probe into alleged match-fixing in more than a dozen games last season that also implicated runner-up Trabzonspor and cup winner Besiktas, which was led by current Turkish soccer head Yildirim Demiroren.
Before today’s meeting, a coalition of supporters groups called the Turkish Fair-Play Platform took out a full-page advertisement in the Haber Turk newspaper urging UEFA President Michel Platini to take action after Turkish soccer authorities failed to penalize any of the teams or individuals involved.
“Turkish football is corrupted,” the ad said. “For the last eight months, the Turkish football federation has blocked the applications of disciplinary actions against match-fixing. Intervene and apply disciplinary actions immediately.”
Platini said he told Erdogan at a meeting two days ago that he shared his sentiments about the impact of suspensions on fans but UEFA’s disciplinary rules have been fixed for decades.
“I agree with him in principle,” Platini told reporters. “Is there another way to work? Maybe it’s possible we can think about it.”
FIFA President Sepp Blatter called on national governments to play a role in combating cheating.
“Sport, football, FIFA, UEFA and all the confederations -- are we responsible for all the evils besetting our world?” he said. “No, but we must stay alert.”