Ukraine at centre of major match-fixing investigation

A host of Ukrainian football clubs have been accused of match-fixing as police in the country carried out a wide-ranging raid that resulted in the arrest of at least one referee.

The Reuters news agency reported that Ukrainian police raided 35 clubs, five of which compete in the top-tier Premier League – FC Zorya, Vorskla, Zirka, Olimpik and Olexandriya.

Reuters added that an investigation led by Francesco Baranca, head of the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) Committee on Ethics and Fair Play, uncovered five criminal groups, with 57 cases of match-fixing involving 328 people having been registered. So far, no charges have been made.

FFU president Andriy Pavelko said: “This is a historic day for Ukrainian football. This is just a beginning. We hope this time it will not end up with the administrative fines. I am very thankful for Baranca. I am sure this will set a good example for Ukrainian and world football.”

Arsen Avakov, head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the criminal groups feature club owners, players, referees, coaches, commercial structures and civilians.

Serhiy Knyazev, head of the National Police of Ukraine, added: “Media have been speculating about suspicious games. We have been collecting and documenting the proof for over a year. We have demonstrated only certain facts we have. This is to provide a signal that we will get rid of such games.”

The developments come with the Ukrainian capital of Kiev (pictured) preparing to host the Uefa Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid on Saturday.