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March 27, 2006, Spiegel Online

Bayer Leverkusen: Is German Soccer for Sale?

Last week's 4-1 victory over the USA gave German soccer only a brief respite after months of self-doubt, in-fighting and scandal. Its reputation is now once again under threat from accusations of match-fixing involving one of the country's top football clubs, Bayer Leverkusen.

Germany's image as World Cup host nation has been dealt another blow this week with allegations that a club in its top soccer league may have been involved in match-fixing.

State prosecutors in Cologne said they were investigating whether the former manager of Bundesliga club Bayer 04 Leverkusen, ebullient heavyweight Rainer Calmund, paid cash to bribe soccer players to help his team avoid relegation in 2003. Calmund, who has denied the allegations, was questioned by prosecutors on Monday about cash payments totalling €580,000 which he says were used to hire new players.

German football has been beset by revelations of match-fixing scandals in lower soccer leagues over the last year, but so far its premier division -- which comprises the best clubs such as Bayern Munich -- has been spared.

If the accusations prove true, the scandal would be disastrous for the reputation of German soccer, already hit by internal quarrelling among football officials and fears that the national team may embarrass itself on the world stage this summer. A 4-1 home victory over a relatively inexperienced B-team fielded by the USA last week has offered little solace after a recent spate of defeats.

Cologne public prosecutor Günther Feld said in a statement on Sunday: "We have serious indications that the €580,000 wasn't used for options on player purchases as Herr Calmund stated, but to bribe players."

Bribe to avoid relegation?
The investigation was triggered by a 12-page statement sent to the public prosecutor's office by a lawyer of the club on March 9. The statement, seen by DER SPIEGEL, states that Calmund indicated that match-fixing had taken place in a crucial game against club 1860 Munich (the local rival of Bayern Munich) at the end of the 2002/2003 season.

Calmund had been summoned to a meeting in May 2004 with the head of the legal and accounts departments of the club's sponsor, pharmaceutical company Bayer AG, to explain the whereabouts of three checks totalling €580,000.

At that meeting, according to the lawyer's statement, Calmund said that a former soccer pro and player advisor Volker Graul had approached him and said "he could do something" for the club, which was threatened with relegation and needed two wins from its last two matches of the season to stay in the topflight three years ago. The ex-player had demanded €580,000, of which he said he would pay €500,000 to three players of 1860 Munich to influence the match and keep the remaining €80,000.

After Leverkusen won the match 3-0, supposedly Calmund ordered the payment. Calmund has said the money was spent on so-called options -- rights of first refusal to buy players from other clubs. But he has so far been unable to back that up with convincing paperwork.

SPIEGEL knows the identities of the three 1860 Munich players in question, but the club denies any knowledge of the affair. "We assume our players were neither manipulated nor did they receive money. Should there be any suspicion we will support a thorough investigation," said 1860 business manager Detlef Romeiko.

Mar 27, 2006

Bayer 04 : Ex-Leverkusen boss interrogated

Prosecutors investigating suspected fraud and possible match-fixing interrogated a former general manager of Bundesliga club Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Monday. "It's a complicated situation and a lot is still just speculation," said Guenter Feld, spokesman for the prosecutor's office. Reiner Calmund, who resigned unexpectedly as Leverkusen's general manager in 2004, is under investigation for fraud after paying 580,000 euros ($814,395 Cdn) to player agent Volker Graul.

The money was for options on two players - from Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia - but the deals were never completed, leading to suspicions of fraud. Cologne prosecutors say the money may have been used to manipulate at least one Bundesliga game when Leverkusen was fighting relegation at the end of the 2002-2003 season. "It's not only a rumour, there is a suspicion," Feld said.

Calmund has denied any match-fixing. "Mr. Calmund never, at any time, instigated match manipulation, or took part in it. He is also not aware of any match manipulation in connection with Bayer 04 (Leverkusen)," a statement from his lawyers said over the weekend. After Monday's seven-hour interrogation, Calmund's lawyers said they considered the allegations of match-fixing as having been "removed."

Calmund had turned Leverkusen into a top team that repeatedly just missed winning titles, including a 2002 Champions League final loss to Real Madrid. With the kickoff of the World Cup 74 days away, German authorities are looking into other match-fixing allegations.

Investigators said Sunday they had searched betting agencies and other locations in Munich and Nuremberg for evidence of game rigging, after media reports that games involving Bundesliga club Nuremberg may have been fixed. Three people are considered suspects in the case.