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Pro sports leagues to form joint council to deal with match fixing
SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- In light of the latest match-fixing scandal in local professional sports, the government said Wednesday it will form a new supervisory body, involving all major sports leagues, to handle further game-rigging schemes.

   The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said it convened an emergency meeting of senior officials from professional baseball, football, volleyball and basketball leagues to discuss their collective response to the match-fixing scandal in basketball.

   Earlier this week, Kang Dong-hee, former head coach of the Dongbu Promy in the Korean Basketball League (KBL), was arrested on match-fixing charges. Prosecutors believe he took cash from two gambling brokers in exchange for throwing games during the 2010-11 season. Kang resigned on Tuesday, a day after he was taken into custody. He was the first active head coach of a South Korean professional sports team to come under match-rigging suspicions.

   Before the KBL, the football, baseball and volleyball leagues had already dealt with match-fixing scandals, with dozens of players getting lifetime bans from their sports.

   In a statement, the ministry said the sports leagues have agreed to form a council tasked with responding to match fixing.

   "This new body will integrate some of the functions previously handled individually by each league, such as investigating match-fixing allegations and educating athletes," the ministry said. "The council will be quick on its feet and will be sustainable."

   The ministry also said it will raise the financial reward for reporting match-fixing practices from 100 million won (US$91,100) to 200 million won. The government will also ask the leagues to reduce their grants on teams implicated in match fixing, the ministry added.

   To prevent match fixing late in seasons, each league has agreed to dispatch extra supervisors to games held after teams have clinched their playoff berths.

   Once they've secured their spots in the postseason, teams in different leagues have often rested their usual starting players to keep them fresh for the playoff run. Such practices, however, might have left certain games vulnerable to fixing attempts.

   Kang Dong-hee, the arrested ex-basketball coach, is accused of throwing a game in March 2011 by sitting down his regulars after the Promy had clinched a playoff spot. Kang's team lost the game to an underdog.

   The ministry added it will hold a separate discussion on Thursday on how to crack down on illegal sports betting Web sites.

   In earlier match-fixing cases in other sports, players, active or retired, were found to have taken cash from gambling brokers making their bets on illegal Web sites.

   These sites offer proposition bets, or "prop bets." They place odds on some minor plays, such as the number of free throws made in the opening quarter of a basketball game, often with no cap on the amount of wager. It's considered easier for gamblers to fix such minute plays.

   The only legal form of sports betting in South Korea is through buying Sports Toto lottery tickets. Sports Toto offers odds on wins, ties, losses and the combined scores between teams. A bettor can only wager 100,000 won per ticket.

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
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