Three Maltese players have been summoned to appear before UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Body on August 17 to answer bribery-related charges in connection with the Euro 2008 qualifier between Norway and Malta.

We have changed tactics in order to strengthen our fight against match-fixing. In some cases, we are ready to give amnesties to those who are prepared to talk (about match-fixing)- Darmanin Demajo

This was revealed by Malta FA president Norman Darmanin Demajo in his closing address at the association’s annual general meeting, held yesterday at the Grand Hotel Excelsior.

At the first UEFA hearing into allegations that the Norway-Malta game was rigged, it had been reported that the UEFA prosecutors had initiated disciplinary proceedings against two Maltese players but Darmanin Demajo yesterday announced that a third player has been charged.

“The dark shadow of the Norway-Malta match-fixing case still hangs over our heads,” the MFA president said. “We have been informed that UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Body will meet on August 17 to decide the case.

“Three players have been charged by UEFA. These players will have the opportunity to defend themselves. This is why the first hearing, held in May, was postponed as the players requested more time to prepare their defence.”

The allegations that some Malta players had accepted bribes to fix the result of the Euro 2008 qualifier against Norway were made by Croatian fraudster Marijo Cvrtak during his trial in Bochum last year.

Three goals in the last 18 minutes gave Norway a 4-0 victory at the Ullevaal Stadium.

While reiterating the association’s zero-tolerance stance on match-fixing, Darmanin Demajo also intimated that the police are set to take criminal action in connection with another case of alleged bribery in domestic football.

The MFA president gave no further details but sources told The Sunday Times that the case centres around the Premier League (second round) between Sliema Wanderers and Ħamrun Spartans, which finished 1-1.

A player who turned out for Sliema Wanderers last season reportedly claimed that he had been approached by another player, who was on the books of another club , to throw the above-mentioned match.

Darmanin Demajo lauded the efforts of the MFA Integrity Officer, Franz Tabone and Prosecutor Adrian Camilleri to combat corruption which he described as “the cancer that is destroying football”.

“We have changed tactics in order to strengthen our fight against match-fixing,” Darmanin Demajo said.

“In some cases, we are ready to give amnesties to those who are prepared to talk (about match-fixing).”

At the start of his address, Darmanin Demajo cited parts of then MFA president J. Frendo Azzopardi’s foreword to the 1953-54 Football Annual. Dr Frendo Azzopardi warned clubs that the “supporters’ obsession to win trophies” was jeopardising their long-term stability.

Almost 60 years on, Dr Frendo Azzopardi’s words are still relevant as Maltese clubs are still grappling with the challenge of finding a balance between their pursuit of success and other priorities like infrastructure and financial well-being.

Registrations mess

Darmanin Demajo called for a “paradigm shift” in the clubs’ approach.

“European football is at a crossroads... we must always keep in mind two very important words, financial fair play and integrity,” Darmanin Demajo said.

“We might think that because we’re small, we’re out of the equation but that’s not the case. We must be accountable and to do that, we must fundamentally change our approach.”

Players must take responsibility, on and off the field, Darmanin Demajo stressed, adding that the integrity of clubs must begin with the registration of players “which leaves a lot to be desired”.

“We just can’t continue to make declarations and present contracts that are in flagrant breach of the association’s regulations,” Darmanin Demajo said.

The Malta FA chief also touched upon the importance for clubs to recruit good, qualified coaches at nursery level.

“We appeal to the clubs and coaches to make better use of our technical centre,” Darmanin Demajo said.

“We have long said that we want our technical centre to be an open learning centre because we believe in the concept of continued professional education.”

Darmanin Demajo also called on clubs to change their approach towards signing foreign players, urging them to give more opportunities to their youth players.

The ownership structures of clubs was another subject addressed by Darmanin Demajo yesterday.

“We have to look at different structures of ownership,” he said. “The time has come for clubs to consider turning into small public limited companies.

“Last year, a foreign businessman asked to meet me because he was interested in investing in a Maltese club. He asked me... if I invest in a Maltese club, what am I buying?

“In reality, they’d have nothing to show for their investment because we still have a system where a club committee is elected every year.”

Darmanin Demajo called for a “paradigm shift’ in the way MEPA looks and assesses the projects the MFA present on behalf of the clubs and for the government to look at football in a different light.

“Football is an economic activity that generates jobs and opportunities,” Darmanin Demajo said.

“I have to say that, unfortunately, most of the economic activity engendered by football is not black on white and that is not helping our arguments.

“The government can help but we (clubs) can do more to put our things in order.”

The MFA president also voiced his dissatisfaction with a number of regulations in the MFA statute which, in his words, contain “loopholes that undermine the players”.

“I know that the clubs are happy with the state of affairs but I’m not,” Darmanin Demajo said.

“I know you can outvote me, but that’s not what I stand for. Firstly I’m answerable to myself.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a football person and I want to die as a football person. I don’t act for the gallery.

“There are many things that are not right. You probably think that if we change them, you’re going to suffer but issues relating to registrations, financial terms, parameters etc, just don’t make sense.”

Bjorn Vassallo, the Malta FA CEO, also addressed those present at the start of yesterday’s AGM.

“This was a year that offered many challenges, in times when the economic crisis had a massive effect on every activity, including football across Europe,” he said.

“Although this financial instability was a constant concern, the MFA still chose to keep investing directly in the domestic game.

“Furthermore, the MFA’s obligation to strengthen its structures in terms of governance and to give a voice to every member in its fold, was maintained and this led the clubs and member associations to participate more actively and gain more autonomy in the leadership of the MFA.”

Sergey Fursenko, a member of the UEFA Executive Committee and former president of the Russian Football Federation, attended the Malta FA AGM on behalf of UEFA.

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