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Saudis suspend World Cup referee over bribery

Saudi referee Fahad al-Mirdasi has been banned for life by the Saudi football federation for offering to take a bribe.
© AFP/File KARIM JAAFAR

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, May 16 – The Saudi Football Federation have banned referee Fahad al-Mirdasi for life over bribery and urged FIFA to remove him from the pool of referees for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Mirdasi was suspended after admitting offering to take a bribe to influence the outcome of a match, the federation’s disciplinary and ethics committee said late Tuesday.

The 32-year-old is one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent referees, having earned a FIFA badge in 2011 and officiating at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 and the Confederations Cup in Russia in 2017.

In a statement to AFP, FIFA said it was looking at the case and seeking more information.

“FIFA notes the information that referee Fahad Al Mirdasi has allegedly been banned for life from all football-related activities by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF),” it said.

“FIFA has requested more information from the SAFF before making any further comments.”

Mirdasi was chosen to referee Saudi Arabia’s Kings Cup final between top clubs Al-Faisaly and Al-Ittihad on Saturday but was pulled from the roster just a few hours before the game.

In a statement, the disciplinary and ethics committee said Mirdasi had approached the president of Al-Ittihad asking him for a bribe to enable his team to win.

“The Ittihad president Hamad Al-Sanayeh called the Saudi Football Federation to state there was evidence that Fahad Al-Mirdasi had reached out via text messages on WhatsApp. He asked for an illegal sum of money in exchange for helping his team win the game,” it said.

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The case was referred to the Saudi Football Federation, then the General Authority for Sport — the highest sports authority in the kingdom — triggering an administrative investigation.

Mirdasi confessed to the charges, according to the statement, and it was decided “to deprive him from participating in any football activity for life”.

The committee recommended that Saudi Arabia officially request FIFA to remove Mirdasi from the list of referees participating in the 2018 World Cup and suspend him for life.

“Our integrity is above all considerations,” said Turki Al-Sheikh, head of the General Authority for Sport.

Mirdasi was one of five Arab referees chosen by FIFA to officiate at the 2018 World Cup.

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