The specially authorized İstanbul 16th High Criminal Court sentenced Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım to six years, three month in jail for creating and running a criminal gang and also for match fixing.
The court said Yıldırım, who was recently re-elected Fenerbahçe chairman, can no longer serve as a club official or even watch sporting events at stadiums, but both sanctions require approval by the Supreme Court of Appeals to go into effect. He was also ordered to pay a fine of TL 1.3 million ($729,000).
But the court decided that Yıldırım was free to leave Metris Prison and go home pending an appeal in the case. Two other senior Fener officials -- İlhan Ekşioğlu and Şekip Mosturoğlu -- who were also incarcerated in Metris received prison sentences but walked free. The same applied to football agent Olgun Peker.
All in all, 93 defendants were convicted in this case and there certainly will be appeals and counter-appeals.
This is an issue that will be dealt with by prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges. However, what concerns the football world is how UEFA will interpret these convictions.
The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) in early May embarked upon “collective incrimination and collective exoneration.” It cleared all the 16 teams -- including Fenerbahçe -- that had been referred to the Professional Football Discipline Committee (PFDK) of any involvement in the rigging saga.
And UEFA, maybe based on this ruling, decided not to ban any Turkish team from Europe due to match fixing. The only team currently banned by UEFA is Beşiktaş, not because of match rigging but because of gross mismanagement. That case is now at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and Beşiktaş could be reinstated if the court rules in its favor, just as was the case with Bursaspor.
Now, however, there is the İstanbul 16th High Criminal Court’s verdict convicting the Fenerbahçe chairman and two top aides of match fixing. Former Beşiktaş coach Tayfur Havutçu and administrator Serdar Adalı were also convicted.
Does Monday’s court verdict, in the eyes of UEFA, supersede an earlier ruling of the TFF? In other words, which is superior: a verdict from a high court in the land or a mere ruling by the TFF? And if the former is the case, then what course of action will European football’s governing body take? Will UEFA have to review the cases of Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş?
These questions can go on forever. But the fact of the matter is that UEFA, which employs a no-tolerance policy when match rigging is an issue, cannot afford to sit on the fence.