BRUSSELS, May 8 (Reuters) - The Belgian refereeof a first division match under investigation for alleged irregular betting was quoted in a newspaper on Thursday saying he had not sought to influence the result.
The Belgian Football Association is probing betting of over $1.2 million on Anderlecht’s 4-1 league win over second-from-bottom Sint Truiden last month, a key game in the race for the final Champions League spot.
“It’s hardly rare to have a bet on an Anderlecht victory. It would be more suspect if there was a massive bet on a shock by Sint Truiden,” referee Tim Pots told Belgium’s top-selling Het Laatste Nieuws.
“The best proof that that there was no manipulation is that Sint Truiden had been 1-0 up.”
Anderlecht scored all their goals in the last 10 minutes after surprisingly going behind to an early goal.
Linesman Jozef Carmeliet told another newspaper, De Morgen, that no one had approached them to affect the result.
“If that had happened then they would have come to the wrong people. I would have told the FA immediately. I am far too happy doing my hobby,” he said.
Anderlecht and Sint Truiden have denied any wrongdoing.
The investigation is a huge blow to the game in Belgium which had only just recovered from a match-fixing scandal in 2006 that led to the arrest of over a dozen players and coaches.
A Chinese businessman allegedly at the centre of the betting ring remains on the run and is wanted by Belgian police.
The probe was prompted by allegations from Michel D‘Hooghe, chairman of Club Bruges who trail second-placed Anderlecht by three points before this weekend’s final matches.
Both teams were level on points before Anderlecht’s game with Sint Truiden in the race for the runners-up spot which brings a place in the Champions League second qualifying round.
D‘Hooghe contacted the FA after receiving information over betting on the match in Asia. According to the FA, the highest amount placed on a single match in the last two years had been $400,000.
There are also question marks surrounding the Anderlecht goals, with the FA investigating allegations of offside and also that one goal was given despite a foul by an Anderlecht player.
Pots said it was easy to talk after the match about possible errors.
“How many penalties are sometimes not given? How many offsides are wrongly called? I am surprised and disappointed that there is so much fuss about this,” he said. (Editing by Darren Ennis and Ken Ferris)