Suspended: SAFA boss Kirsten Nematandani
South Africa was plunged into crisis on Monday just a month before it hosts the African Nations Cup finals with the suspension of its football association president and other top officials following a report into match fixing involving the national team.
South African Football Association (Safa) president Kirsten Nematandani, new chief executive Dennis Mumble and its top refereeing officials have been suspended indefinitely as the organisation said it planned to ask a judge to set up an independent inquiry.
The suspension follows the handing over last Friday by world governing body Fifa to Safa of a 500-page report investigating the activities of convicted Singapore match fixer Wilson Raj Perumal and his Football 4U organisation.
The report highlighted the involvement of the five South African officials, a press briefing in Johannesburg was told.
“These suspensions were necessary for good governance and for allowing this matter to be thoroughly and properly investigated,” said outgoing chief executive Robin Petersen, who was due to hand over to Mumble next month.
Fifa has alleged that the results of pre-World Cup warm-up matches against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala in the weeks leading up the 2010 finals were fixed.
The suspended officials had engaged Perumal to organise opponents for South Africa’s national team as they prepared to host the World Cup, and then also agreed to Perumal’s suggestion he bring in and pay referees from other African countries to handle the matches, Safa said.
The referees then fixed the results of the games to benefit an Asian betting syndicate, some of the matches filled with dubious penalty decisions and poor offside calls.
Allegations of match fixing were first revealed in the South African press in July last year but Safa did not immediately act, only raising the issue once Fifa had incorporated the country into a wider investigation into Perumal.
SAFA said it would ask a retired judge to take charge of an urgent commission of inquiry “so that the issue can be speedily resolved”.
The organisation’s image has suffered in recent years from in-fighting between football politicians and near bankruptcy, with an independent audit firm brought in to run the body’s finances.
Safa was hoping a successful Nations Cup tournament, which starts on January 19, would help turn around its fortunes and recently unveiled a long-term development plan it is hoping to entice corporate sponsors to back.