The Hungarian club Debrecen have said their goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic was questioned by Uefa after he was approached by match-fixers before a 2009 Champions League group game played at Liverpool and one at home to Fiorentina. The European Union intelligence-sharing agency, Europol, said on Monday that two Champions League matches are under suspicion of match-fixing, including one played in England "three or four years ago" but declined to say which ones.
The Danish newspaper, Ekstra Bladet, reported that Europol was referring to that Debrecen tie at Liverpool, where the Hungarian team lost 1-0 with Poleksic in goal, but Europol has not confirmed whether that was indeed the match. Uefa took no action over the Liverpool game, and there is no ongoing police investigation into it, so if that was the match to which Europol was referring, it is not clear why they said it remains under suspicion.
Liverpool said they have had no contact from Europol or any other body in connection with match-fixing allegations surrounding that game. There is no suggestion that anyone at Liverpool was involved in any wrongdoing; no player or official involved with the game, including Poleksic, has since been disciplined for any offence relating to it, and Merseyside police said they had not been told any investigation is taking place.
Poleksic was banned from football for two years in 2010 by Uefa for failing to report an approach from match-fixers involving Debrecen's 4-3 defeat to Fiorentina in October 2009, a month after the Anfield tie.
Poleksic appealed his case to the court of arbitration for sport which upheld the ban, saying: "It had been proven to its comfortable satisfaction that there had been contacts between the player and the members of a criminal group involved in match-fixing and betting fraud and that he was obliged to have reported the said contacts to Uefa. By failing to make such a report, Poleksic had violated the principles of conduct set forth in the Uefa regulations."
It added, however, that it had not established that any actual match-fixing did take place. Another Debrecen player, Norbert Meszaros, succeeded in his appeal to Cas, which quashed the ban and fine Uefa had imposed on him.
Ekstra Bladet reported that mobile telephones tapped by police in the German city of Bochum, as part of an investigation into organised crime, had suggested criminals had attempted to influence Debrecen's performance at Liverpool. However, any suspected fix did not apparently succeed; Liverpool won only 1-0, not 3-0 as the telephone taps suggested the fixers had wanted. No prosecution or disciplinary action took place relating to that match. A Liverpool spokesman said: "We have had no contact from Europol or any other organisation over this."
Merseyside police told the Guardian that Europol had never been in contact with them in relation to any match-fixing allegations or investigations in Liverpool. "If there was a conspiracy which was suspected to have taken place in Liverpool, we would have had a role in the investigation, whether we took primacy in it or not," a spokeswoman said. "We certainly would know about it, but the force had not been contacted."
The Football Association and Uefa said they had not been contacted in advance of the announcement. An FA spokesman said: "The FA are not aware of any credible reports into suspicious Champions League fixtures in England, nor has any information been shared with us."
Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, told a news conference that a total of 425 match officials, club officials, players, and serious criminals, from more than 15 countries, were suspected of being involved in attempts to fix matches.
There was some bemusement in football and media circles about why Europol had held the press conference, referring sensationally to so many matches, including the two unidentified Champions League games, while providing so little information or evidence of tangible results.
Debrecen are understood to have been unaware of the Europol announcement in advance, but later conformed that Poleksic had been questioned in 2010. Poleksic, having served his ban, remains the club's first-team goalkeeper.