Lebanese football referee Ali Sabbagh was sentenced with a six months’ improsonment today for match fixing. His assistant referees were sentenced with three months jail time, says Channel News Asia.The referees all pled guilty on the first day of trial for accepting free sex from a gambling-linked global syndicate. In return they were supposed to rig a match between Asian Football Confederation Cup match (second international level for club teams, like Europa League; JtH) on April 3 between Singapore-based club Tampines Rovers and India’s East Bengal. Right before the match the match officials were pulled out and a new refereeing trio was appointed.
The assistants are already released from jail. Channel News Asia: “The assistant referees broke down into sobs after Judge Low Wee Ping said they could be freed by later Monday or Tuesday, after remission for good behaviour and due to time already served awaiting sentence.” Sabbagh got a higher sentence because he was the one who persuaded the assistants to accept the “bribe”.
Sabbagh was a Fifa referee since 2008. In an interview with Dutch Referee Blog earlier this year he was talking about going to a World Cup sooner or later. “Now I am 34 years and here in Lebanon all the people say that I will go to the World Cup because of my performance and my development. So I hope that they’re right, because our federation works hard to improve refereeing.” Although Fifa has not made a statement about his future as referee, his chances for a final tournament have decreased to (almost) zero due to this match fixing incident.
UPDATE: Fifa has confirmed Ali Sabbagh will get a worldwide lifetime ban because he agreed to fix a match in Singapore in exchange for sexual favors.