Monday, July 24, 2006

Polish FA offices searched in World Cup ticket row

WARSAW, July 24 (Reuters) - State prosecutors searched the headquarters of Poland's football association (PZPN) on Monday in the latest chapter of a row over the disappearance of World Cup tickets.

Prosecutors from the southern town of Czestochowa have been investigating charges by some of the several hundred fans who say they paid PZPN but never received tickets for the Poles' games at the tournament in Germany.

Two people have so far been charged in the investigation, which began when journalists from TVN television news caught touts on film in June who claimed they had bought tickets from PZPN officials at prices several times the face value.

'Today we are searching PZPN and firms (distributors of tickets) connected to it,' prosecutor Stefan Rozmuszcz told the PAP state news agency.

'We want to secure evidence which will allow us to answer whether these improprieties were indeed committed.'

He said charges of 'paid protection' being considered by prosecutors, if justified, carried a jail sentence of up to eight years.

Polish football's ruling body is also dealing with allegations of widespread match-fixing in a separate investigation which has seen two referees and around a dozen other officials detained over the last 18 months.

The corruption rows and a disappointing first round World Cup exit prompted the government earlier this month to order sports ministry and tax office investigations into the association.

Local media say ministers are considering imposing emergency management on PZPN, but have held fire so as not to damage a joint bid with Ukraine to host the 2012 European Championship.