GENEVA (AP) _ Spanish referee Manuel Diaz Vega was cleared of any wrongdoing in the face of bribery allegations in a World Cup qualifying match between Norway and Switzerland, soccer’s world governing body announced Wednesday.
The allegations first arose during a European investigation into former World Cup referee Kurt Roethlisberger, who was banned for life by UEFA two months ago in connection with an incident before a Champions League match. FIFA then followed with its own ban.
Following a special inquiry into the matter, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee said it found no indication that any bribery or bribery attempts had occurred in connection with the World Cup qualifying match between Norway and Switzerland last Nov. 10.
``The statements made in various media reports ... alleging that attempts had been made to influence the Spanish referee Manuel Diaz Vega are unfounded,″ FIFA said in a written statement.
``The inquiry has totally disproved these charges. The committee, moreover, declared it had absolute confidence in the integrity of Manuel Diaz Vega.″
The allegations were published in various Swiss newspapers during the UEFA disciplinary hearings against Roethlisberger for attempted corruption in connection with an official Champions League match between the Swiss side Grasshoppers and Auxerre of France last fall.
The FIFA Disciplinary Committee conducted hearings June 5, when it questioned the Diaz Vega, FIFA match commissioner Louis Kilcoyne of Ireland and Roethlisberger.
FIFA said the interviews showed that while Roethlisberger and Diaz Vega had both participated at a few of the same UEFA referees’ courses, as well as having met at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the banned Swiss referee had no contacts with the Spaniard.
FIFA reaffirmed that Norway’s 1-0 victory over Switzerland had been played without incident and that referee Diaz Vega appeared to act completely fairly.
``The decision of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee refers solely to the ... 1998 World Cup qualifying match,″ stated FIFA. ``It does not affect UEFA’s previous decision, nor the permanent ban on Kurt Roethlisberger in connection with the Champion League game.