Ukraine Monitor

Date: 24 May 2018

The Corrupted Corruption

The Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Arsen Avakov claims that the police under his orders conducted “a special operation” and exposed people guilty of organising “a big network of relations”. These people were supposed to fix matches and earn a great amount of money on football betting. 320 people are suspected and 57 investigations are being conducted. Among them, there are referees, football players, coaches, activists and clubs chairmen. The network consists of five criminal groups operating in ten Ukrainian oblasts. Nobody was arrested.


Matches were being fixed within four football leagues and 35 clubs were involved. But mainly in the lowest leagues. Only three clubs from the first league are suspected: “Zorya Luhansk”, “Vorskla Poltava”, and “Olimpik Donetsk”. Their representatives stated in the media that this was the first time they had heard about the case. The greatest members of the Premier League “Shakhtar Donetsk” and “Dynamo Kyiv” are above suspicion.

The police published a list of corrupted clubs, many of which do not exist anymore. The press conference was focused on cases of two clubs – PFC “Sumy” and MFC “Mykolaiv”, whose representatives were supposed to pay referees for fixing the matches. They used different methods to achieve the desirable match results: corruption of players, referees, club owners or threats against them or their relatives. Rewards for a draw or a win often were not high – from 30 to 100 thousand hryvnias. But the greatest amount of money was earned in the pools when the results were known. There, gains were reaching 5 million dollars a year.

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine tried to combat the problem in 2015. It passed a law which stated that match-fixing was to be punished either with a fine of 200 minimal salaries or with up to 5 years in prison. Nobody has been punished yet.

To combat corruption, the Chief of The Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine Nazar Cholodnyckyj became the first deputy of the President of the Football Federation of Ukraine. A specialist Francesco Baranka was hired for the position of the Head of the Ethics Committee of the Federation. These staff shuffles, the first of which is probably a worldwide phenomenon (a prosecutor in the leadership of the organisation, which he is to assess under law), were the results of actions taken to improve the image of the Football Federation of Ukraine in Europe.

Everything has started in 1995 when a Spain referee Antonio Lόpez Nieto came to Kiev to judge the Champions League match between the Ukrainian “Dynamo Kyiv” and the Greek “Panathinaikos”. After the match, he wrote a report in which he accused the representatives of the Kiev team of the attempt to bribe him with two mink coats and 30 thousand U.S. dollars.

Despite the fact that “Dynamo” really won the match, it caused a scandal which led to the removal of the Kiev team from all European games and to the dismissal of Ihor Surkis, the Chairman of “Dynamo”. He later regained his position and was soon accused, this time only by the European press, of corrupting the FIFA members deciding on the organisation of the UEFA European Championship in Ukraine and Poland.

So far, the biggest football scandal revealed to the public took place in 2008, when “Metalist Kharkiv” won against “Karpaty Lviv” with the score of 4:0 and reached the third position in the Ukrainian league, which entitled to taking part in European cups. After the investigation, the Ukrainian Federation disqualified one of the “Karpaty” player and the Chairman of “Metalist”. The clubs appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne (CAS) and utterly lost the case.

In 2013 the court in Lausanne stated that the match played five years earlier between these teams was fixed. “Metalist” had to give back the bronze medal from the 2007/2008 season; both teams were punished with fines. The team from Kharkiv was also removed from the 2013/2014 Champions League. In 2015 due to the getaway of Serhiy Kurchenko, the Chairman of the club, a person close to the former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and due to the club’s bankruptcy, “Metalist” lost the status of the football club.

In response to the police’s reports and the statements of the Minister of Internal Affairs, the president of the Football Federation of Ukraine Andriy Pavlenko promised to conduct the internal investigation which would aim to determine the responsibilities of individual activists, referees and players. In his opinion, operations of the police in the Ukrainian football are unprecedented, and the problem with corruption should be finally solved: “We will act in accordance with the solutions introduced in 2015 by the Verkhovna Rada, according to the act on “Battle against corruption and match-fixing”.” His answer to the question why nobody has been arrested yet was similar to the one given by the Minister of Internal Affairs: this is not a category of crimes which requires detainments of suspects – their activities will be first assessed by the Ethics Committee of the Football Federation.

Football and the Football Federation in Ukraine are still outlawed, they are not subordinated to the penal code in which corruption is described as a crime. A special act on “Battle against corruption and match-fixing” was passed especially for the Football Federation of Ukraine, but it turns out not to be valid – it is an alibi, a fig leaf. The police action in media is probably a part of a game for influences in the football business, which is implied by lack of particular results of the investigation. One can suspect a staff shuffles in the Federation and its political environment. The core of the system, the corrupted corruption, remains the same.

All texts published by the Warsaw Institute Foundation may be disseminated on the condition that their origin is credited. Images may not be used without permission.

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