January 17, 2008 / 12:45 PM / in 11 years

Soccer-Corruption probe snares former Polish champions Widzew

WARSAW, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Polish top-flight club Widzew Lodz are to be relegated at the end of the season for their role in a wide-ranging corruption scandal, the national football association (PZPN) said.

Widzew, four-times champions and one of Poland’s oldest clubs, were found guilty by the PZPN on Wednesday of bribing referees on 12 occasions in 2004 and 2005.

“The oversight department decided to relegate Widzew Lodz to a lower league due to its participation in the so-called corruption scandal,” Michal Tomczak, head of the department, said in a PZPN statement.

Widzew president Boguslaw Sosnowski responded to the verdict by saying: “We see the penalty as excessive and we will appeal.

“We believe the club was wronged by the decision,” he added in a statement.

The club, who are co-owned by former Juventus great Zbigniew Boniek, were given seven days to lodge an appeal.

The sanction means they will drop one division for the start of the 2008-09 season. If they finish the current campaign in the relegation zone, Widzew will drop to the third division.

They are currently 13th in the 16-team division, from which the bottom two clubs are relegated, and are just three points above 15th-placed Lodz.

The scandal first emerged in press revelations in mid-2005 and has since led to numerous arrests of referees, players and officials of both clubs and the PZPN.

Charges are still pending for the reigning champions Zaglebie Lubin, who are accused of bribing officials on nine occasions in 2003 and 2004. A decision is expected on Jan. 30.

The PZPN have already relegated Zaglebie Sosnowiec, Arka Gdynia and Gornik Leczna from the first to the second division, and two other clubs from the second to the third, because of match fixing.

Reporting by Patryk Wasilewski; Editing by Trevor Huggins

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