Sports and Crime / Probe Into Soccer Corruption Affair Ends Without Charges

Authorities' initial suspicions were triggered when Hapoel Petah Tikva's coach at the time, Yuval Naim, appeared to have received money that was not properly reported.

A soccer corruption scandal that opened with a bang two years, closed with just a whimper Thursday, without any serious findings, arrests or indictments. The scandal broke two years ago with allegations of match-fixing at soccer games, focusing on Hapoel Petah Tikva. Players, referees and officials on other teams were suspected of involvement, as well as known Israeli underworld figures.

Authorities' initial suspicions were triggered when Hapoel Petah Tikva's coach at the time, Yuval Naim, appeared to have received money that was not properly reported. The team's owner, Gal Hazor, and a number of players were also summoned for investigation and the team's books were examined for irregularities, while the team was liquidated due to heavy debts and relegated from the Premier League to the second-tier National League.

The Israel Football Association Thursday welcomed the decision to close the investigation. "When the populist wave instigated by the authorities subsides it will again become clear that the smears directed at the association and its heads, as well as Israeli soccer, were nothing more than baseless slander," the association said in a statement.

The director of the Referees' Union also welcomed the news. "I am very happy the case has ended, in my opinion too late," Yariv Tepper said. He added that the fact no evidence was found against any referees attested to "proper and sound conduct on my part and that of the union."

Sharon Bukov