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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 15:57 GMT
Anti-sleaze probe collapses
By Mark Gleeson
in Cape Town

South African referee Petros Mathebela
Mathebela is one of the officials Safa has reinstated
South African's much vaunted Operation Dribble is in danger of turning into a damp squib with the collapse of the prosecution of high profile referees.

Following revelations of corruption involving some of the country's top referees, South Africa's elite crime-fighting unit known as the Scorpions was called into action.

The Scorpions then launched their operation against corrupt match officials in a blaze of publicity in May 2004.

There were more than 30 arrests in the initial police probe, but only three officials were eventually fined and handed suspended prison sentences for their part in fixing a lower league match.

So with only a handful of prosecutions against minor officials, the operation has turned into a source of embarrassment for both the Scorpions and South African football's bigwigs.

Many of the referees who had charges against them dropped have received confirmation of their reinstatement

As a result, the supposed fight against corruption among South Africa's referees has fizzled out in dramatic style in recent weeks.

Police have accused some of South Africa's top football officials of not helping them with their investigations.

The South African Football Association (Safa) has now confirmed that 15 match officials will be reinstated after charges against them were dropped.

However, the referees will have to undergo fitness tests and are most likely going to take charge of matches in the amateur ranks before being allowed to handle top-flight games.

The list includes the Fifa-approved pair of Petros Mathebela and Walter Mochubela.

Although the much-anticipated prosecution of referees, match commissioners and club officials has come to nothing, it may yet backfire on the police and Safa.

Sturu Pasiya, the owner of Premier League club Umtata Bush Bucks who was implicated in the corruption web but not prosecuted, has now threatened legal action of his own.

Many of the referees who had charges against them dropped have received confirmation of their reinstatement from Safa only after taking the football body to court last month.

Speculation is rife that the case against the referees has collapsed because it also involved some of the biggest names in South Africa.




SEE ALSO
Police arrest Safa official
07 Jul 04 |  African


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