| 8.7°C Dublin

Former referee makes bribe claims

the match-fixing scandal that has rocked Turkish football took a further twist this week when a high-profile former referee claimed that Galatasaray's elimination of Manchester United from the Champions League in 1993 was aided by a corrupt match official.

The club have rejected the allegation made by Ahmet Cakar, who refereed at Euro '96 and in the Champions League, and have instigated legal proceedings against him. Cakar, now a pundit on Turkish TV, said that he witnessed a Galatasaray official offer the match referee, Kurt Rothlisberger, a bribe over the telephone the evening before the Champions League second leg against United in Istanbul.

After a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford in the first leg, the Turkish side reached the group stages with a goalless draw at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium. Eric Cantona was sent off for making a gesture to the referee at the end of the game -- he was to later accuse the Swiss of having been bought -- on a chastening night for United.

After a post-match melee in the tunnel, Cantona was struck on the head by a policeman's truncheon and had to be restrained by Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister.

Apart from Cantona's assertion, there has never been any suggestions by other United players or manager Alex Ferguson about the referee.

On the night, United did not create a clear chance and it took two high-class saves from Peter Schmeichel to keep the game scoreless.

Cakar's claim was added to by another Turkish football official, Ahmet Guvener, a former president of the Central Referee Committee.

"I heard from (the club official) many times that he had bribed Rothlisberger," he said. "I do not know whether he actually did that or not. But I witnessed him saying that," Guvener told the Turkish newspaper, Sabah.

Rothlisberger took charge of the Champions League final between Marseilles and Milan in the same year.

He was sent home from the 1994 World Cup after admitting he should have awarded Belgium a penalty in a 3-2 second-round defeat.

He was later given a life ban from the sport after allegations that he offered to influence another Champions League game between Grasshopper Zurich and Auxerre.

Rothlisberger denied the charge, but failed in a subsequent appeal to get the ban reversed.

Galatasaray have launched a court action in response to Cakar's claims. (© Independent News Service).

Irish Independent