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Match-fixing linked referee to oversee England’s Euro semifinal

DORTMUND, Germany (AP) — The referee for England’s semifinal clash with the Netherlands at the European Championship has been confirmed as Felix Zwayer, a controversial figure with a history linked to match-fixing in Germany.

Zwayer, who has already officiated three matches at Euro 2024, including the Netherlands’ 3-0 victory over Romania in the round of 16, will take charge of Wednesday’s highly anticipated encounter. The appointment was jointly announced by UEFA and the German soccer federation on Monday.

This decision has not come without controversy, as England midfielder Jude Bellingham was fined €40,000 in 2021 for publicly criticizing the choice of Zwayer. Bellingham, who was playing for Borussia Dortmund at the time, expressed his concerns about giving a referee with a previous match-fixing scandal such a significant role.

Zwayer’s involvement in the match-fixing scandal dates back to 2006 when he received a six-month ban as a young assistant referee. He was accused of accepting money from another referee, Robert Hoyzer, who was banned for his involvement in match-fixing. However, a ruling published by German newspaper Die Zeit in 2014 stated that while Zwayer had accepted €300 from Hoyzer, there was no evidence of him manipulating any games. In fact, Zwayer eventually provided crucial evidence in the case.

Despite this controversial background, Zwayer has continued to officiate top-level matches. In December 2021, he oversaw a closely contested 3-2 defeat for Dortmund against Bayern Munich. Bellingham, in an interview with Norwegian broadcaster Viaplay, expressed his dissatisfaction with the appointment, questioning the decision to give a referee with a match-fixing past such an important game.

Zwayer himself has denied any involvement in match-fixing and claimed to have received death threats following his appointment. He revealed that he had received “unbelievable” emailed messages and was informed by Berlin police about a death threat made against him online. Since then, Zwayer has not been appointed to any Dortmund games, but interestingly, he will return to the same stadium for the England-Netherlands clash.

England defender Luke Shaw, however, brushed off concerns about Zwayer’s appointment, emphasizing the need to respect UEFA’s decision. Shaw stated that the referee selection would not affect their focus on the game at hand and that they would be ready regardless of who officiates the match.

In Tuesday’s semifinal between Spain and France, Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic will be in charge. The stage is set for two thrilling encounters as the European Championship reaches its climax.

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