ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Aziz Yildirim, the president of Turkish league champion Fenerbahce, was charged in court on Sunday over his involvement in an alleged match-fixing scandal that threatens to strip the club of its title.
Thousands of Fenerbahce fans took to the streets of Istanbul in support of Yildirim and other Fenerbahce officials who were also implicated in the scandal. Yildirim was ordered jailed pending his trial along with 25 other suspects, including two other Fenerbahce executives.
The suspects are accused of manipulating games last season, making Turkey the latest country to be affected by a slew of match-fixing and betting scandals around the globe that has also gripped South Korea and Zimbabwe.
In Turkey, investigators obtained evidence of cheating and bribery involving 19 first- and second-division games, the police said.
Fenerbahce won 16 of 17 league matches in the latter part of the season to come from a distant third place and beat Trabzonspor to a record 18th title on goal difference.
Fenerbahce risks losing its league title in the same manner as Italian club Juventus, which was stripped of its 2005 and 2006 Serie A championships over a similar scandal.
The Turkish Football Federation said it aims to decide on what measures, if any, it will take against the Istanbul club by next Friday; the deadline for notifying UEFA of which teams will play in European competitions. Possible sanctions include stripping the club of its title, relegating it to the second division and barring it from competitions.
The government has promised to be tough on match-fixing, introducing legislation three months ago to confront hooliganism and cheating in football which included a maximum 12-year prison sentence for fixing games.