Former SA coach match-fixing sentence 'a warning'

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South African football fans are hoping the eight-year jail sentence imposed on Phil Setshedi for match-fixing earlier this week will herald the turning point in the fight against corruption that has plagued the sport in the country.

Setshedi, a widely admired former Orlando Pirates central defender in the 1980s, and assistant coach of Bafana Bafana when they won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996, will serve an effective three years in prison, with the remainder of the sentence suspended for five years.

Affectionately known to Pirates fans as "Mr Jones", Setshedi was convicted in December last year after being found guilty of trying to bribe a referee by paying him 2000 SA Rand ($250) to influence the outcome of two matches in a national second division promotion tournament in June 2011.

Sivutsa Stars, the team Setshedi was seeking to help, won the tournament and with it promotion to the National First Division, one tier below the lucrative Premier League.

The conviction of Setshedi can be attributed to the budding relationship between the South Africa Football Association (Safa) and the country's elite crime fighting unit, the Hawks, who have promised to eradicate the scourge of corruption which has plagued South African football since the formation of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) in 1996.

Setshedi was trapped during a sting operation in which a policeman posed as a referee and arranged to meet him at a local hotel where the former defender handed over R2000 to fix two matches for Sivutsa Stars.

Football in South Africa has been dogged by allegations of corruption and bribery since the advent of the PSL which saw huge inflows of cash generated by lucrative broadcast deals - the latest five-year deal with satellite TV broadcaster SuperSport was worth around $235m - and corporate sponsorship boosting the coffers of the local game.

The extent of corruption that has infested the game in South Africa was revealed during evidence led by a referee, who may not be identified for his own safety, who testified during sentencing that he had been paid for fixing each of the 30 league matches of one season by the chief executive of one particular club.

Setshedi's sentencing comes just over a month after an investigation by football's world governing body Fifa revealed that four of Bafana's pre-2010 World Cup matches were fixed in collaboration with unnamed Safa officials and follows a promise by the Hawks of more arrests "which will shake South African football to the core".

Safa president Kirsten Nematandani welcomed the conviction and sentencing of Setshedi, saying: "Once again, this sends out a strong warning to anyone who might intend to tarnish the good name of the sport through corrupt and any other unsporting behaviour.

"In accordance with Fifa and Safa's zero tolerance to corruption and match fixing, we would like to warn other potential criminals that the long arm of the law would not spare you."

Nematandani also encouraged members of the public to call a special anti-corruption hotline should they have any suspicions of match fixing activities.