Norway vs Malta match-fixing case: MFA reacts after UEFA decisions

MFA President Norman Darmanin Demajo said that in his opinion, the EURO 2008 qualifier between Norway and Malta, played in Oslo in June 2007, was fixed considering the evidence provided by Marijo Cvrtak and the particular details given by him. He also believes that more players were involved since €200,000 were placed as bets on the game.

Darmanin Demajo was speaking during a press conference after the UEFA Control & Disciplinary Body banned Kevin Sammut from exercising any football-related activity for ten years, for breaching the principles of integrity and sportsmanship laid down in Article 5 of the UEFA disciplinary regulations (involvement in attempting to manipulate the outcome of a match) and acquitted Kenneth Scicluna and Stephen Wellman last Friday.

The MFA President opened his speech by giving the sequence of facts surrounding the case. He said that in September 2010 – seven months before the Bochum trial, German police had interviewed Croats Marijo Cvrtak and Ante Sapina over match-fixing and among several matches, they mentioned the EURO 2008 qualifier between Norway and Malta. The game was played in Oslo in 2007, with Malta losing 4-0 with goals by Kristofer Haestad on 31 minutes, Thorstein Helstad on 73 minutes, Steffen Iversen on 79 minutes and John Arne Riise on the 90th.

In May 2011, during the Bochum trial, the Norway vs Malta game was named as one of the games which were fixed. At the time, tt was reported on German media that Marijo Cvrtak said he had travelled to a hotel in Oslo where he met with at least three Maltese players. He went on to say “I would have preferred a 5-0 win, but the players had already discussed together.”

At the time, the association informed the police about the matter and tried to obtain more information about the case.

During a meeting for Integrity Officers, MFA Integrity Officer Franz Tabone established important contacts and asked for a transcript of the Bochum trial. The transcript in German was provided in October and after being translated, a copy was handed to the police for further investigation.

In the mean time, the association received an anonymous letter mentioning a number of players but the fact that it was anonymous, the MFA could not rely on it.

MFA Integrity Officer Franz Tabone and MFA Prosecutor Dr Adrian Camilleri started to interview all those who in some way or another were related to the game in order to gather all possible information.

The dossier was ready by the end of March and was sent to UEFA since the European body made it clear that since it was a competition organised by UEFA, it had jurisdiction over the case.

The UEFA Disciplinary Inspector came to Malta in April in order to carry out further interviews and the MFA was informed that the hearing would be held on May 31. However following a request by the players who were charged and their lawyers for more time, the hearing was postponed to August 17.

The UEFA Control & Disciplinary Body banned Kevin Sammut for ten years while the findings of the Disciplinary Inspector were insufficient to take disciplinary action against Kenneth Scicluna and Stephen Wellman. On the other hand, the UEFA body announced that FIFA will be requested to extend the ban on Kevin Sammut, so as to give it a worldwide effect.

The player may appeal within three days of the official notification and could even take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

Norman Darmanin Demajo said that in his opinion, there was overwhelming evidence that the match was fixed. He said a player could fix a game even if he plays no part in a game.

In that game, Kevin Sammut was substituted at the end of the first half.

The MFA President said this was did not do credit to our players but it was an eye-opener in view of other possible cases of match-fixing.

MFA Integrity Officer Franz Tabone described this case as a defeat for football lovers and said that this led to the loss of respect for the game.

Tabone revealed that Marijo Cvrtak had first indicated the player number 10 which the German police linked to Gilbert Agius as they referred to a mistaken line-up which was available online. In the official line-up, Kevin Sammut wore the number 10 shirt.

Asked whether the hearing in Nyon was a fair trial considering claims by Sammut’s lawyers that it was not, Darmanin Demajo said he would be very surprised of the otherwise, saying that trials in sports justice were completely different than law courts.

MFA Head of Legal Department Dr Chris Bonnett said the principles of natural justice are respected in such disciplinary bodies and if the lawyers believe there was a blatant breach of natural justice, they could challenge the decision in the appeal and eventually the CAS.

Norman Darmanin Demajo admitted the association paid the travel expenses for Sammut and his lawyer following their request but when asked why they did not defend the player, he said the association was only the damaged party in the case. He stressed that it was UEFA who decided to charge three players and now this decision was binding on the MFA, other European associations and eventually all other countries once FIFA extends the ban worldwide.

Finally the MFA President said that he had no knowledge of any other international matches which were fixed and said he was more worried about possible cases in the domestic competitions.