Turkey to launch title play-off

ISTANBUL - The Turkish first division title will be decided by a play-off at the end of this season, the country's football federation said, as it looked to boost clubs' earnings and revitalise a league mired in a match-fixing investigation.

The decision was announced after a meeting on Tuesday between the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) and the chairmen of the first division clubs.

"A play-off system will be in effect in the 2011/12 season. We will try this. We hope it will be lasting," TFF chairman Mehmet Ali Aydinlar told reporters after the meeting.

Under the plan, the top four teams in the league will face each other in a play-off. Media reports said the plan was based on the Belgian model and came amid fears of falling revenues as a result of the match-fixing investigation.

"It may be dropped in future years but we believe that this will liven things up. We think clubs will earn more money. We want to make football more attractive," Aydinlar said.

The federation has postponed the start of the Turkish season by a month until September 9 so its ethics committee can investigate match-fixing allegations involving some of the country's top clubs.

Over 30 players and officials have been jailed pending trial, including the Fenerbahce chairman Aziz Yildirim and the coach and deputy chairman of Besiktas, in connection with alleged manipulation in 19 matches.

The federation said last week it would not take decisions regarding those involved until the court has accepted the indictment and lifted a secrecy rule.

In the meantime last season's results stand, with Fenerbahce confirmed as champions and they will take part in the lucrative Champions League competition.

A UEFA official visited Turkey this week and met with the federation and prosecutor in the match-fixing case to collect information on the investigation.

Chairman Aydinlar said after Tuesday's meeting that the federation had proposed the play-off system to the clubs, which had welcomed it, although Galatasaray had some reservations.

"We expect this system to bring a fresh breath of air to our football," he said.