BELLINZONA: The start of the trial of the 2006 World Cup organising bosses has been postponed until Wednesday.

The Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona had no option after former German DFB bosses Theo Zwanziger, Horst R Schmidt and Wolfgang Niersbach all submitted medical certificates referring to concerns over the coronavirus crisis.

The only accused present was Swiss Urs Linsi, who was general secretary of world governing body FIFA in the run-up to, and during, the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

The four deny charges relating to a controversial $10m payment from the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, then ceo of Adidas.  The sum was loaned to the World Cup bidding committee but ultimately repaid out of organisational support funds by FIFA Рnot to Louis-Dreyfus but to Mohamed bin Hammam, then the president of the Asian confederation.

The defendants are all pleading not guilty and are expected to object to the trial going ahead in the absence of Franz Beckenbauer, bid and organising president, who has been excluded from the process because of ill health.

The court has set aside three weeks for the trial but prosecutors face a race against time: if the case is not concluded before April 27 it will fall because of a statute of limitations.

Presiding judge Sylvia Frei refused to accept the medical submissions, ruling that the three Germans could be driven by private car to the court and their health could be monitored by the central regional hospital in Bellinzona.

Members of the general public were barred from attending and all court officials and media representatives had their temperatures checked. Frei said: “Our aim is to keep the risk as low as possible without restricting the parties’ rights.”

If only Linsi attends again tomorrow Judge Frei is expected to order the trial to go ahead with Zwanziger, Schmidt and Niersbach  being tried in absentia.

Zwanziger is a former president of the DFB, Schmidt is former general secretary and Niersbach was communications director of the 2006 organising operation and later chief executive then president of the DFB.

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