In two recent seasons, the team had lost the league championship in its final few games, an outcome the prosecutors’ indictment said Yildirim wanted to avoid repeating.
Faced with that pressure, in spring 2011, Fenerbahce won 16 of its last 17 games to come from a distant third place and stay in the Champions League.
“Whatever you do in a season, if you don’t qualify for Europe (Champions League), it doesn’t mean anything,” explained Turkish lawyer Emin Ozkurt, who has represented Fenerbahce in other cases.
Yildirim was put on trial last spring along with 92 other officials, players and coaches.
Turkish police had 1,028 wiretaps relating to the 13 games in question, 103 of them tied to Yildirim. He was charged with match-fixing and accused of trying to get favorable referees assigned to his team’s games. Prosecutors also said that the transfer fees he paid to some rival clubs and players were actually payoffs for fixing games.
A 2012 global study on match-fixing conducted jointly by four international research institutions noted that “chairman-to-chairman” fixing is quite common in the Balkans, eastern Europe and Russia, especially when a win is very important to one club and less so for a rival.
“The risk of matches being rigged in this way increases as the end of the season approaches, if a team is still in contention for a promotion or a victory in a championship or is trying to avoid relegation,” the study said. “Club chairmen … not only often know each other personally, but above all, understand each other because they all have the same aims and constraints.”
Club officials also know which players are less scrupulous or in financial trouble and can be easily pressured into throwing a game. The report said chairman-to-chairman match-fixing “can even assume systemic proportions” in which favors done for one team one year are paid back by rigging more games the next season.
The Fenerbahce case was not Turkey’s first brush with match-fixing. The prosecutors’ indictment noted that since 1980, Turkish football has attracted a host of criminal gangs and mafia dons.
Prosecutors said the wiretaps in the latest scandal revealed an elaborate code based on farming and construction terms that Yildirim and other Fenerbahce officials used to talk about match-fixing.
“Buildings under construction” referred to games in the process of being fixed. “Goats in the field” referred to players, “crops being watered” were match-fixing payments, and “plowing, planting and sowing” were efforts to fix games. The agricultural terms used by the city-dwelling soccer officials often did not correspond with the actual farming seasons, prosecutors noted.
In court, Yildirim was confronted with what prosecutors called a transfer fee of $100,000 paid by Fenerbahce for midfielder Gokdeniz Karadeniz, who ended up never playing for the team. He insisted the payment was legitimate, and said investigators hounded his team so much that players such as Karadeniz were too upset to play.
“Players (who) transferred with great hopes and without the slightest irregularity were detained, put under pressure and … left the club without wearing the team uniform once,” Yildirim testified.
Prosecutors say Yildirim aides spoke with the manager of Nigerian striker Emanuel Emenike to make sure he did not play in a spring 2011 game against Fenerbahce. Emenike then transferred to Fenerbahce for an undisclosed fee but never played for the team and later transferred to Russia. Emenike was charged in the match-fixing scandal but since he is out of the country his case was separated from the others, and is ongoing.View Entire Story
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