Controversial Referee to Oversee Prominent UEFA Semi-Final Match


In an unexpected move that has sent shockwaves throughout the football world, UEFA has appointed a controversial figure to oversee an upcoming semi-final match in the Europa Conference League. Felix Zwayer, a German referee with an infamous reputation stretching back to a 2005 betting scandal, will preside over the game between English Premier League’s Aston Villa and Greece’s reigning champion, Olympiacos.

Perhaps the reservations voiced by the industry insiders echo back to more than a decade ago, when Zwayer was found guilty in a notorious gambling match-fixing scandal that reverberated through Germany’s football fraternity. This dark chapter in Zwayer’s career resulted in a six-month suspension from the sport that he evidently loved.

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Zwayer’s dubious reputation is not his alone. It was back in January of 2005 when Robert Hoyzer, another referee hailing from Germany, got embroiled in a shameful scandal involving game fixing and betting. Hoyzer, renowned for handling matches in Germany’s second-tier league, confessed to receiving bribes to slant games in favor of an underground betting syndicate linked to the grimy world of organized crime.

The apparition of corruption began to surface during an intriguing first round game of the German Cup in August 2004, when Hamburg faced Paderborn, a supposedly inferior non-league team. No one anticipated the wave of shock that resulted from the game, as two dubious penalties awarded by Hoyzer and the expulsion of Emile Mpenza, Hamburg’s Belgian striker, led to a surprising 4-2 triumph for Paderborn.

This drastic upset raised eyebrows among certain referees present at the match, who subsequently reported their apprehensions to the German Football Association (DFB). Coupled with an online gambling corporation’s revelations about irregular betting patterns during the match, a full-scale criminal investigation was initiated.

Once under scrutiny, Hoyzer turned state’s evidence, leading to the arrest and conviction of three Croatian brothers–Ante, Milan, and Filip Sapina–members of the gambling syndicate. These brothers reaped a windfall of €500K on the Paderborn game alone. Other referees and players too found themselves under the spotlight due to Hoyzer’s damning confessions.

Ironically, Zwayer, who had initially voiced suspicions concerning Hoyzer’s conduct, found himself in unfamiliar territory as one among the implicated. Investigations revealed that he had accepted €300 from Hoyzer prior to a match between SV Wuppertal and Werder Bremen in May 2004. A game in which Zwayer donned the role of a linesman under Hoyzer’s supervision. It seemed the payment was made to ensure Zwayer remained lenient towards Wuppertal, as per findings of the DFB probe.

Despite this unsettling revelation, the DFB could not conclusively prove that Zwayer had actually influenced the outcome of the match. Acknowledging his contributions towards the investigation of the case, the DFB handed down a six-month ban. In contrast, Hoyzer was given a lifetime ban from all football-related activities and sentenced to two years and five months in prison.

Zwayer’s acceptance of the bribe remained hidden from the public eye until 2014, when the reputed German newspaper, Der Zeit published an exposé. The allegations resurfaced again in 2021, when English midfielder Jude Bellingham, who was representing Borussia Dortmund at the time, publicly criticized Zwayer’s decision during a match against Bayern Munich.

“If you give a referee, who has, you know, match-fixed before, the biggest game in Germany, what do you expect?” Bellingham queried, a remark which landed him a hefty €40K fine from the DFB.