Referee in Aston Villa’s Conference League semi-final was banned in match-fixing scandal

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Felix Zwayer
Felix Zwayer served a six-month suspension in 2005 for accepting a bribe from convicted match-fixer Robert Hoyzer – CHRISTOPHER NEUNDORF/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Aston Villa’s crucial Europa Conference League semi-final second-leg match against Olympiacos will be overseen by a referee who had previously received a six-month suspension due to involvement in a German match-fixing scandal.

Felix Zwayer has been appointed as the referee for Thursday night’s fixture in Greece, where Villa must overturn a 4-2 deficit from the first leg to progress to the final in Athens.

Zwayer holds the rank of a Uefa “elite category” referee, but has faced controversies and strong criticism from Jude Bellingham and Erling Haaland, in addition to upsetting West Ham United manager David Moyes.

In 2005, Zwayer received a six-month suspension due to his involvement in a match-fixing scandal related to Bundesliga referee Robert Hoyzer, who was accused of accepting bribes to manipulate matches.

Zwayer and three other officials reported Hoyzer’s illicit actions, however, Zwayer, a 42-year-old real estate broker, served the ban as part of the case.

This incident resurfaced in 2021 when Zwayer officiated a match between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, during which he faced heavy criticism for not awarding a penalty to Dortmund and sending off coach Marco Rose.

Despite Zwayer’s punishment in 2005 for aiding Hoyzer and accepting a bribe, rather than directly involving in match-fixing, England international Bellingham, who was playing for Dortmund at that time, remarked, “You can scrutinize many other decisions in the game. If you assign a referee, who has a history of match-fixing, the most significant game in Germany, what do you anticipate?”

Bellingham received a fine from the German football federation for his comments, while Manchester City striker Haaland, also a former Dortmund player, stated, “As I said, he was very arrogant. It appears he sought the limelight, and now he will get it because he committed numerous errors. He wasn’t a good referee. What more can I say? It wasn’t a good performance from him.”

Following the controversy, Zwayer took a break from refereeing. He resumed in February 2022 and subsequently provoked Moyes, who was cautioned for his objections after the official dismissed Aaron Cresswell in a Europa League quarter-final between West Ham and Lyon.

Last summer, Zwayer officiated the Nations League final between Croatia and Spain. In the current season, he took charge of Arsenal’s Champions League triumph over PSV Eindhoven and Brighton’s 1-0 Europa League home victory against Roma.

Villa are likely to receive a boost from the return of goalkeeper Emi Martínez for the second leg against Olympiacos on Thursday night, as evidenced by the club’s post featuring a picture of the Argentina international, alongside Pau Torres, with the message “ready to give everything”.

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