m_Former top Croatia official jailed

Soccer

A former top local Croatian football official was sentenced to jail on Tuesday after a Zagreb court found him guilty of taking bribes to influence refereeing in first division matches.

Zeljko Siric, a former referee and ex-vice-president of the Croatian football federation (HNS), was handed a four-year prison term for taking 30 000 euros ($41 000) in bribes, judge Gordana Mihela Grahovac ruled.

The money was received in 2011 from a Hajduk Split official. In exchange Siric had promised to enable “correct refereeing” of the club’s matches, meaning that only referees from a list suggested by Hajduk Split would oversee their matches.

“He subordinated his position in sports … to his own profits,” judge Grahovac said.

Siric was also banned from Croatian football for an eight-year period.

A second defendant, Neven Sprajcer, a former secretary of the association of first division sides, was sentenced to 10 months on probation.

He was charged with making a deal with Siric to pay him 15 000 euros to ensure “fair refereeing” for his club from Karlovac.

The third initial suspect in the case and a member of HNS refereeing commission, Stjepan Djedovic, was to be tried separately due to his health problems.

Croatian football, with the federation firmly in the spotlight, has been rocked in recent years by financial problems, match-fixing and bribing scandals.

Former star player Davor Suker, who took over the HNS helm in 2012, had pledged to “return the faith in both football and refereeing”.

Reuters