The Iranian football federation has charged “Shahrdari Tabriz” with corruption and relegated the already promoted “Azadegan League” club back to the lower division in an unprecedented event in Iran’s football.
Talk of corruption at the lower tiers of Iran’s league has been rife in the media and several football circles. The accusations and allegations that money was exchanged for favours in order to fix match results became common with many famous names mentioned in the process. Many ex-Team Melli players were also mentioned either as brokers or participants in these illegal practises.
The Iranian Football federation eventually took control of the issue after its initial reluctances to act citing the absence of credible evidence. The catalyst was the popular “Navad” TV show in which a “Shardari Bandar Abbas” player , came openly in the program and accused Faraz Kamalvand, Shahrdari Tabriz’s coach of attempting to bribe him on the eve of a crucial match involving the two teams in Bandar Abbas fighting for promotion to the top division.
After setting up of a special investigation committee to probe allegations of match fixing, incentive payments and bribery, in the First Division of the Iran’s football League “Azadegan League”, the disciplinary panel of the IRIFF decided to relegate the “Shahrdari Tabriz”” citing numerous counts of bribery and attempts to influence several match results.
The IRIFF also suspended the head coach, Faraz Kamalvand , along with the ex- Team Melli player , Sadegh Varmaryaz , who is the assistant coach of the club, from all football activities for two years and imposed a 300 million Rials ( US$ 24,500) fines on each one of them for their key roles in this bribery scandal.
The extensive sentencing also involved other ex-Team Melli players in the “Shardari Tabriz” club including Shys Rezaei, a notorious ex-Perspolis and Sab Qom player famous for his transgressions and pranks, Ali Alizadeh and Mehdi Vaezi , an ex-Team Melli goalkeeper. All the three were fined for their peripheral roles in attempting to bribe opposition players , but none of them were suspended from football activities.
The extensive investigation involved many other teams and sentences were announced in the IRIFF website. The federation did not indicate if the authorities , the police or the public prosecutors were involved in these investigation. Bribery and corruption is punishable by law in Iran and the lack of authority’s involvement in these investigations raised a few questions by the media already. The IRIFF promised a special press conference on the subject matter.
This is yet another chapter in the on-going global bribery scandals that has tarnished the most popular sport in the world. Asian countries are quite notorious for all sort of corruption scandals including bribery, the influence of gambling syndicates in the east to the power broking , behind the scene bribes, vote buying , blatant political influences , government interferences and match fixing in the west.
Recently , many Lebanese players were suspended accused of corruption including a National Team player who gifted a Qatari player a ball to score the only goal of the match in Beirut in a FIFA World Cup qualification match. Neither FIFA nor the AFC took the matter any further.
Asia of course , had its head of the football Confederation, Mohammed Bin Hammam a Qatari national , removed and suspended for life due to his attempts to bribe CONCACAF officials to vote for him in the FIFA presidency election. Qatar won the right to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 against major competition , a result which has sent shock waves through the football world.
In Iran , there has been talk of match fixing for many years , but this is the first time that the federation has acted and came down heavily on the culprits and offenders.
The insiders still believe that the Sharhrdari’s relegation is the tip of the iceberg.