Monday, July 03, 2006

Poland to investigate FA in corruption scandal

WARSAW, July 3 (Reuters) - Poland's conservative government ordered investigations into domestic football's governing body on Monday after new arrests in a year-long corruption scandal which officials say may have some way to run.

Four referees and football association (PZPN) officials were arrested on charges of match-fixing last week, bringing the total detained into double figures since last May.

The justice ministry and prosecutors said last week the detentions were part of a wider probe into a match-fixing ring and that they suspected other officials in PZPN could be involved.

'We have signals for several months about the things that are wrong in PZPN,' Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz told a news conference launching the audits by tax authorities and the sports ministry.

'This has provoked action. We did not take these steps earlier due to the preparations for the World Cup finals. Now we have to.'

After a failed World Cup campaign which prompted calls for heads to roll at PZPN, commentators say the move may be a prelude to appointing an emergency administrator.

If the government finds evidence of wrongdoing in bookkeeping and other areas, it will have grounds for justifying its intervention in the organisation to the game's world and European governing bodies.

The issue is particularly sensitive given Poland and Ukraine's joint bid to host the 2012 European Championships, due to be decided on by December in a three-way race with Italy and a joint offer by Croatia and Hungary.

'I am calm and confident (about this investigation),' PZPN chief Michal Listkiewicz told daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

'We already had one such audit several years ago and it helped us to make a lot of improvements in how we operate. I hope this will do the same.'

Critics blame Listkiewicz for failing to invest in football's lower echelons, hit by years of underfunding and a shortage of pitches and modern facilities left over from the communist era, while PZPN's bloated bureaucracy flourishes.

The European Union's sixth biggest country with a population of 38 million, Poland has been starved of success since the national team took third place in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups.

Their World Cup hopes were scuppered last month by two opening defeats by Ecuador and Germany.