Four V-League referees face bribery probe

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V-League referee Dinh Hai Duong (L) and three others are facing a bribery probe

The Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) has requested that police investigate accusations that four referees received cash payments believed to be bribes from unidentified individual(s) after supervising a V-League match in March.

Referee Dinh Hai Duong and assistant referees Pham Dac Chien and Do Manh Ha and fourth official Kieu Viet Hung were assigned to the March 30 match between Thanh Hoa and Hoang Anh Gia Lai at Thanh Hoa Stadium.

Thanh Hoa beat Hoang Anh Gia Lai 1-0 during the third round of the 2013 V-League season.

The two referees Thanh Nien was able to contact, Duong and Hung, rejected the accusations.

According to Tien Phong newspaper, some referees reported to the Vietnam Professional Football Joint Stock Company's (VPF) Referee Division over conflicts which arose in dividing the sum of the bribe believed to have been several hundred million dong.

Division head Duong Vu Lam played down the case but did suspend the four referees for the subsequent round of V-League play, but the VPF considered the case serious and reported it to the VFF, the paper reported.

On June 7, VFF Chairman Nguyen Trong Hy sent a request to the Ministry of Public Security's crime branch asking it to launch an investigation.

"Without handling the case thoroughly, Vietnam football will have similar cases"¦ and we could not [realistically] expect the Under 23 team to win a medal at the South East Asian Games and the AFF Cup.

"Investigating corrupt referees will reveal many other problems," he said, adding that a referee should not receive a bribe even if it is just "a penny."

Two of the referees told Thanh Nien that they were innocent.

Duong said he was frustrated by the accusations being spread in the media.

"It's purely rumors maybe from someone who hates us or doing with some ulterior motive. We have never received any bribe. Actually we did nothing wrong, supervising fairly without match-fixing," he said.

Hung also said he did not receive a bribe.

Thanh Hoa Chairman Nguyen Van De insisted: "The club and I personally have not bribed any referee and would never resort to such a dirty tactic."

On the other side, Nguyen Tan Anh, head of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Club, said the match his club lost to Thanh Hoa 1-0 had been refereed fairly.

Meanwhile, a V-League organizer said it used to be common for a club to give a referee a few million dong.

Tran Duy Ly, V-League head, said the referee division had not verified the case thoroughly.

"Currently, the bribe can be actually hundreds of millions of dong and not a small "˜lucky' amount of five or ten million dong. Earlier, many wealthy football teams used to win the heart of referees by supporting them with money to their cover transportation expenses," he said.

Following the alleged bribery, two of the involved referees were found to have made bad calls in the subsequent rounds (before VFF requested police investigation).

In the fifth round, Chien was determined to have erred when he did not recognize a goal of Da Nang. As a result, Da Nang lost to Hai Phong 1-0. Chien was suspended during the first stage of the Championship.

In the seventh round, Ha made a similar misjudgment when he refused to acknowledge a goal scored by Song Lam Nghe An. However, the club still beat Vissai Ninh Binh 2-0. After this match, Ha was suspended before being assigned to the first division.

Duong and Hung have been left of the list for a referee training session to prepare for V-League's second stage.

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