After the results of Europol’s investigation into match fixing in European football were announced today, German football faces one of the biggest threats to its newfound golden reputation. According to reports, some 70 games were subject to manipulation in German football from 2008 to 2011, with the majority taking place in the fourth divisions. 151 of the 425 individuals alleged to be linked to the widespread manipulation are said to be living in Germany. We take a timely look back at one of German football’s darkest hours – the Robert Hoyzer match fixing scandal of 2005.
Einbildung ist auch eine Bildung. The English translation of this proverb is usually “Such conceit knows no bounds”. In the case of Robert Hoyzer, it was the deceit, rather than the conceit, which stung German football so fiercely. A member of Hertha BSC and an official DFB referee since 2001, in early 2005 Hoyzer was accused – and convicted – of having fixed a number of games in the Regionalliga, the 2. Liga and the DFB Pokal.
In early January, four referees registered their suspicions of Hoyzer’s foul play with the DFB. Their main concern: the first round tie of the DFB Pokal between SC Paderborn and Hamburger SV, which had been played the previous August. It had been a cup upset for the history books. Regionalliga outfit Paderborn had overcome their top flight opposition 4-2, sending HSV out of the cup at the first hurdle, and leading to the dismissal of coach Klaus Toppmöller. The fairytale was void of moral, however. Hoyzer’s performance was laughable. Two penalty decisions and the questionable red card given to Emile Mpenza had the game marked as one of the most appalling displays of refereeing ever seen in professional football. Paderborn had been handed their upset on a plate by an apparently hapless official.
The reality was much harsher. As Hoyzer admitted on the 27th of January, the game had been fixed. Paderborn’s success was emptier than a Lance Armstrong promise; their glory had been ripped from them by football’s most dangerous cancer.
And how cancerous the corruption proved to be. The allegations against Hoyzer sparked the biggest match fixing scandal that German football had seen in its history. After bookmakers Oddset reported irregular betting patterns around the Paderborn game, and Hoyzer was discovered to have links with the Croatian Mafia, the story of one fixed match became the saga of an unprecedentedly powerful betting ring, and of nearly a dozen matches it had managed to influence. At the heart of this ring were Milan and Philip Šapina, the pair behind Berlin’s betting cafe Café King. Alongside Hoyzer, three Hertha BSC players and several other referees – of which only one, Dominik Marks, was convicted – were implicated in the scandal.
Hertha had lost another Pokal game 3-2 to third division side Eintracht Braunschweig. Among the three alleged players was Alexander Madlung, who scored an own goal – Eintracht’s winner – just moments after being substituted onto the field. While they were eventually cleared of match fixing allegations, their association with the Šapina brothers only fuelled the suspicions that the corruption was far more widespread than anybody could have anticipated.
Hoyzer was eventually sentenced to 29 months in prison, and was later forced to pay reparations of €126,000 to the DFB. His co-operation with the authorities led to the exposure and conviction of several others, including Marks, who was given an 18 month sentence. But the damage had been done.
“I laughed myself to death watching the decisions he made [during the Paderborn game]” ex-Bundesliga and Premier League striker Fredi Bobic later opined, “but you think: it happens sometimes, referees have bad days. Then in hindsight, you think, bloody hell, he’s actually fixed it. And he did it quite well.”
That was the darkest element of Hoyzer’s corruption. Before his misdeeds came to light, it had been unthinkable that the highest level of German football could be tainted by manipulation – that it could be subject to criminal activity. Hoyzer’s case not only uncovered the extent of the corruption caused by match fixing, but also the manner in which such criminality destroys not only the integrity of the game, but also the lives and careers of individuals.
Fellow referee Juergen Jansen was dragged into the saga after allegations emerged that he had manipulated two games, a 2. Liga fixture between Dynamo Dresden and Unterhaching, and a Bundesliga tie between Freiburg and Kaiserslautern. Though he was eventually cleared, Jansen’s career as a top flight referee was left in tatters. While the investigation into the allegations against him was going on, he complained to the press of a “witch hunt”, and angrily recanted the bullying which his children had been subjected to as a result.
The fate of Klaus Toppmöller was similarly grim. The defeat against Paderborn was yet another low point in a turbulent 2004-5 season, and probably contributed significantly to his dismissal in October 2004. Since that time, he has taken on only one coaching role, as manager of the Georgian national team, a post from which he was dismissed in 2008.
As for Hoyzer himself, his was a career destroyed before it had even got going. Having now served his prison sentence, his lifetime ban from officiating professional football still stands. For the measly sum of a reported €67,000, he had sold his dignity and his livelihood.
No doubt today’s revelations are just the beginning. If the story of Hoyzer, Dominik Marks and the Šapina brothers is anything to go by, there will be a lot more twists and turns before the full extent of this latest betting scandal is revealed. For Germany, the shame of the Hoyzer case was eventually eclipsed by the success of the 2006 World Cup, but if the current case proves to be as messy as its predecessors, it could be a long, dark road back for European football.