ISTANBUL: Saturday’s decisive league title decider between old Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce and Galatasaray risks being overshadowed – albeit not on the day – by the ongoing matchfixing saga writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Some 22 matches last season have been the subject of judicial and sports investigation with the outcome still mired in controversy. The court case is running on while the Turkish Football Federation has cleared accused clubs – including the title two – but banned a number of minor officials and players.

Prime Minister Recep Erdogan is involved in walking a diplomatic domestic and international tightrope because of the need to find a solution to reassure both the International Olympic Committee (vis-à-vis Istanbul’s 2020 Games bid) and European football federation UEFA (vis-à-vis Turkey’s Euro 2020 bid).

Turkey is the only current bidding nation for Euro 2020 with a UEFA deadline for expressions of interest expiring next week. But it is hard to see how UEFA can accept the Turkish application bearing in mind its hard-line attitude towards the matchfixing scandal.

Champions Fenerbahce were barred by the TFF – on UEFA’s orders – from entering the Champions League this past season and, it is now being claimed in Istanbul, all Turkish clubs risk being barred from European competition next season.

Kürşat Tüzmen, a former Trade Minister who stood briefly for the TFF presidency earlier this year, has said that was the promise or threat he had been offered personally by UEFA president Michel Platini.

Tüzmen said Platini had warned him that, unless the TFF punished with relegation any clubs implicated in the scandal, they could all forget about competing in the Champions League and Europa League in 2012-13.

He added: “If I had become president of the TFF certainly I was going to relegate the teams. But our Prime Minister [Erdogan] didn’t want me to run for the TFF presidency. That’s because he supports Fenerbahçe, and I support Galatasaray.”

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