More arrests likely in Polish corruption probe

WARSAW - More Polish football officials are likely to be detained on suspicion of corruption and the country may have to employ referees from abroad to ensure the top league can continue, the sports minister said on Monday.

Euro 2012 co-host Poland has so far detained nearly 200 people, including board members of football associations, club officials, players and referees, as part of a match-fixing probe involving 52 clubs.

Following suspensions and corruption allegations, Poland has only 15 referees allowed to work at top-flight matches, raising doubts over whether there are enough to keep the league running.

"We are determined to fight corruption until all people involved are charged," sports minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki told Reuters in an interview.

"I don't know if it will be 50 or 150 more people ... I think next year the process should be drawing to a close.

"If the number of referees goes down to 12 or seven, there are many young referees from lower leagues waiting for their chance and we could also consider inviting referees from neighbouring countries."

Drzewiecki added that he favoured tough punishment for those involved in match-fixing, including lifetime bans in the worst cases, but said punishing the clubs might not always be appropriate.

"It is questionable whether we should punish clubs for deeds from four or five years ago, when none of the people involved work there anymore. This is the situation in most cases," he said.

Of those detained as part of the anti-corruption investigation, around 20 people have been charged and have either been jailed or fined.

EURO 2012

The only way to ensure real change in Polish soccer was to eliminate corruption and bring in a new national team coach, Drzewiecki said.

"(Current coach) Leo Beenhakker is a great professional ... but given how poor his relations have been with (Polish FA) PZPN over the past year, it's hard to imagine their cooperation in the future," Drzewiecki said.

"And without that, it's hard to achieve success. But Beenhakker should finish his term."

Dutchman Beenhakker's contract expires later this year and Drzewiecki signalled Poland might want to hire a local coach as his successor.

Turning to Euro 2012, the sports minister was optimistic about Poland's preparations for the event following UEFA president Michel Platini's visit earlier this month but also saw several challenges ahead.

"Apart from the stadiums, hotels and airports are key. And security of course," Drzewiecki said.

He added that better roads needed to be built linking potential host cities.

Both Poland and co-host Ukraine have been criticised in the past by UEFA for making slow progress on preparations.

There has been media speculation that UEFA is looking at possible alternatives as championship hosts but Platini routinely says there is no "plan B".

UEFA's executive committee will pick the host cities next month.