FIFA calls crisis talks

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PARIS, November 24 – FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called an extraordinary general meeting for December 2 following the Thierry Henry handball incident and an ongoing investigation into match-fixing in Europe.FIFA_LOGO_A FIFA statement released by world football’s ruling body said Monday: "Due to recent events in the world of football, namely incidents at the play-offs for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, match control (refereeing) and irregularities in the football betting market, the FIFA President has called an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee."

The meeting will take place in Cape Town, two days before the draw for the World Cup.

The Henry handball incident left football’s reputation – at least as regards the standards of refereeing – in tatters after it effectively cheated Ireland out of a possible place at the World Cup.

France beat the Irish 2-1 on aggregate over two legs of a qualifying playoff last Wednesday however Henry’s blatant double handball, which led to their equaliser on the night, proved decisive for France.

Since then the use of video technology at football matches, which FIFA is fundamentally against, is an issue which appears to be gaining support throughout the game.

FIFA last week however ruled they would not bow to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI)’s formal request for a replay of the second leg.

Reacting to the announcement of the extraordinary FIFA meeting, the FAI did not appear to hold out any hope of the idea of a replay being resurrected.

"Should we be asked to make any contribution, the FAI would be happy to do so for the improvement of the game," a statement read.

The cash-rich world of European football meanwhile is reportedly harbouring an organised criminal gang that has made millions of euros by betting in Asian markets on the outcomes of matches they helped to decide.

On Thursday, police raided addresses across Europe, smashing what they believe is a 200-strong band that has bribed players, referees and coaches in nine countries.

The German Football Federation (DFB) and the German Football League (DFL) announced on Monday the creation of a task force to probe the betting scandal, which has rocked European football.

European football’s governing body UEFA called a crisis meeting at their base in Nyon, Switzerland, for this Wednesday and the DFB and DFL will join forces to probe 32 German games out of some 200 which are under suspicion.

Around 200 games played this season in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Austria are now under suspicion.

None of the 200 suspected matches were in top flight European leagues like England’s Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s La Liga or Germany’s Bundesliga.

In Italy on Monday police said they had arrested nine people whom they suspect of illegal betting in Italian football.

Amongst those arrested was the president of third division team Potenza, Giuseppe Postiglione and Pro Vastese sports director Luca Evangelista.

They are accused of being involved in organised crime and of sporting fraud relating to a number of bets placed on matches in the second and third divisions from 2007 to 2009.

One match under investigation is the Serie B encounter between Ravenna and Lecce on April 26, 2008, won 3-1 by the away side, on which Postiglione allegedly placed a bet that won him 86,000 euros.

Giovanni Colangelo, the public prosecutor in Potenza, claimed match-fixing had been taking place.

The 2006 ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal involved high-profile Serie A teams and resulted in Juventus being relegated to Serie B and stripped of their last two league titles.

AC Milan, Lazio, Fiorentina and Reggina were also punished for their roles in the match-fixing.

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