EXCLUSIVE: Phnom Penh expelled from 2017 AFC Cup over match-fixing

The Asian Football Confederation has expelled Cambodian league champions Phnom Penh Crown FC from the qualifying rounds of the 2017 AFC Cup, due to take place in August this year, due to match-fixing, as Paul Williams reports.

With the AFC abolishing the AFC President’s Cup, previously the third-tier continental club competition, clubs from the lowest ranked nations were invited to take part in an additional qualifying round in August to determine which clubs progress to the preliminary round playoffs in January next year.

As the 2015 Cambodian champions, Phnom Penh Crown were invited take part in the qualifying round, the draw for which will take place on 17 June.

The AFC has a zero tolerance approach to match-fixing and this decision reflects that approach

But the AFC has confirmed to FourFourTwo that Phnom Penh Crown have been expelled after four club officials were found guilty of offences relating to match-fixing earlier this year.

“We can confirm that the AFC has refused the participation of Phnom Penh Crown FC in the AFC Cup 2017 playoff qualifiers,” an AFC spokesperson told FourFourTwo.

“This is due to four officials affiliated with the club having been found guilty by the Disciplinary Committee of the Football Federation of Cambodia, in a decision on 29 January 2016, of offences relating to match-fixing.

“The AFC Statutes are very clear on this issue, and article 73.6 states that a club that is found guilty of match-fixing will be refused entry to AFC competitions. The AFC has a zero tolerance approach to match-fixing and this decision reflects that approach.”

Phnom Penh Crown responded by releasing their own statement, expressing their “extreme disappointment” with the AFC’s decision and confirming they will lodge an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

PPCFC coach Sam Schweingruber

“Phnom Penh Crown Football Club (PPCFC) would like to express its extreme disappointment in response to the decision of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to refuse the admission of PPCFC into the AFC Cup 2017 playoff qualifiers,” the statement read.

“PPCFC appealed this decision direct to AFC on 26 May, as we felt this was unjust against our club.

“We have done everything we possibly can to support the fight against corruption, cheating and match-manipulation, and we feel this decision sends out the wrong message to our own club and its supporters, to the whole of Cambodian football and to the wider world of football.

“PPCFC have taken legal advice and we are preparing an appeal against the decision of the Asian Football Confederation to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland.”

Phnom Penh Crown, Cambodia’s most successful club with six league titles, announced late last year that it had suspended seven players and four officials on suspicions of match-fixing after obtaining audio of the players and officials discussing a plan to throw matches.

It was reported that youth academy head coach Bou Dary and three other club officials attempted to persuade players to underperform in an attempt to have head coach Sam Schweingruber sacked.

“There’s not allegations, there’s rock solid evidence of what these people have tried to do and done,” Schweingruber said at the time.

PPCFC have taken legal advice and we are preparing an appeal against the decision

“We have no evidence of financial incentives; therefore there is no other clubs involved. This was all done to get me out in order for them to be in control of the club, that’s what’s really heartbreaking.

“We discovered heartbreaking stuff, really heartbreaking stuff. I personally cried; I almost threw up at one stage when I had to listen to some of what’s going on.”

It’s believed the officials were unhappy with the management of the club, particularly the decision not to renew the contract of the club’s technical director.

The seven players suspended were Yok As Ari, Thong Da, Sary Matnorotin, Toch Sok Heng, Ngoy Srin, Sos Suhana and San Usaphea, while Nary, Ngoun Chansothea, Ser Syna and Tes Sophat were the four club officials disciplined.

Photos: PPCFC archive