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Match-fixing aftermath: Polish league start postponed

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 27 Jul 2008

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Everybody was ready to start a new season of Poland’s top-flight tournament (Ekstraklasa) this weekend. In the first match of the season Arka Gdynia were about to host Polonia Warsaw. But this and all other ties of the first match day were postponed and the competition suspended.

Everything started three years ago. In August 2005 Piotr Dziurowicz, then chairman of GKS Katowice, revealed details of a match-fixing scheme in an interview with ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’. Initially, the Polish FA (PZPN) denied any knowledge about what had only been whispered so far. But when the prosecutor’s office in Wroclaw started to arrest people involved in football corruption (more than 100 persons up til now, including referees, club chair mans, coaches, players and a member of the FA board), even they had to start acting. At the end of the 2006-07 season several teams were punished with point deductions and relegations.

The next season the league got even more disrupted: A decision to relegate Zaglebie Sosnowiec was taken after the first match day with effect at the end of the season. In 2008 two more teams were pushed and moved down a level.

But what happened this July, exceeded every-body’s fears. Korona Kielce, Widzew Lodz and Zaglebie Lubin were the next teams sentenced with relegation, and some other teams were unsure of obtaining the top-flight licence, mainly for financial reasons. As if that wouldn’t be enough, the owner of UEFA Cup-qualified Groclin Grodzisk was searching for a merger for his club, having the contract with second-level Slask Wroclaw almost signed. This allowed even the sixth team in the second division to hope for promotion.

In the summer break everything rolled like in a kaleidoscope. Groclin’s merger with Slask finally collapsed, but they moved to Warsaw joining with Polonia. Relegated teams appealed to the Polish Olympic Committee’s (PKOl) Arbitration Tribunal, who suspended the decision. As a result, two days before start of the new season only 12 teams were sure that they are authorized to play in the Ekstraklasa. The Polish FA decided to play all matches as planned, but the league governing body, Ekstraklasa S.A., in agreement with their media partners, decided to suspend the first match day and move it to September.

Today, it’s not sure whether the competition starts next weekend. But it can be even worse, if media speculations are confirmed, that evidences against more teams are waiting to be revealed. Or, if the Olympic Committee judges that accusations are outdated.

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