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Lato elected head of Poland´s troubled federation

Ex-Poland international Grzegorz Lato was elected head of Poland's corruption-ridden PZPN football federation Thursday in a bid to clean it up as Poland gears up to co-host Euro 2012 with Ukraine.

The election comes after wrangling between European football's governing body UEFA together with world ruling body FIFA and the Polish government.

Early this month, Poland's Sports Minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki gave authorisation for a Polish Olympic Committee arbitration tribunal to install an administrator to head the PZPN.

UEFA and FIFA rules stipulate government interfere is unacceptable and Poland faced being excluded from playing two World Cup qualifiers early this month, with a possible reconsideration of whether Poland should jointly host the Euro 2012 championships.

Lato said within minutes of being elected: “We are determined to change the image of Polish football. I am determined to change the image of Polish football, to make it transparent and pure and for this to culminate in the success of Euro 2012.”

The 58-year-old Lato, who has vowed to end corruption, won an absolute majority of 57 out of 112 votes in an election watched closely by FIFA and UEFA, as well as the Polish government and fans.

Lato trumped fellow former Poland international Zbigniew Boniek and out-going PZPN Secretary General Zbigniew Krecina, facing charges of financial mismanagement.

One of Poland's most legendary footballers of the 70's and 80's, Lato was top scorer at the 1974 World Cup with seven goals. Having scored an impressive 42 goals in his 104 international matches, he is the second best striker in Polish history after Wlodzimierz Lubanski.

He is also known in Belgium where he played for KSC Lokeren.

After retiring, Lato coached in Canada for the Toronto North York Rockets and later for a several Polish clubs before launching a political career as a senator for the ex-communist SLD party from 2000/05.

“We must put an end to corruption in Polish football for once and for all,” Lato told PZPN delegates prior to the vote.

A long string of corruption scandals have discredited the federation has among fans. Close to 160 people — including referees, players, club officials and PZPN members — have now been snared in a vast football corruption probe.

Repeated match-fixing scandals have plagued all levels of the league for years. Polish tax authorities also seized 2.3 million euros in unpaid taxes from PZPN coffers this week.

A fresh round of legal action against senior PZPN officials came last week, with charges pressed against Poland's former national team manager Janusz Wojcik and Krecina.

Poland backed down and agreed to pull the administrator from the PZPN and for Thursday elections to flesh out a new leadership.

Thu 30 October, 2008
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