Administrator taking over scandal-hit Polish federation

WARSAW (AFP) — The leadership of Poland's scandal-mired PZPN football federation was on Monday suspended by the Polish Olympic Committee, which named an administrator in its place, the newly-appointed official said.

The decision was taken after "signs of numerous violations of the law by federation officials," the administrator, Robert Zawlocki, told reporters.

"This mainly concerns the activities of the federation presidency, which has violated its statutes in a continuous and flagrant fashion," Zawlocki, a 37-year-old legal expert, said.

"There's legal chaos at the heart of the federation," he added.

The decision by the Polish Olympic Committee tribunal, which oversees the Polish sporting world, was taken at the request of Sports Minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki, the latest in a string of officials who have tried to revolve long-running problems on Poland's football scene.

Drzewiecki explained that he had acted because of "a lack of effectiveness in the fight against corruption".

UEFA reacted to the news, saying it was surprised.

"We will consult FIFA, it is they who will make the first move," UEFA spokesman William Gaillard told AFP.

"We are completely surprised at this intrusion of a civil authority in a sporting domain."

PZPN chief Michal Listkiewicz - a 55-year-old former international referee who has run the federation since 1999 - told reporters he was "surprised" by the arbitration tribunal's decision and said he was taking legal advice.

Drzewiecki said that Listkiewicz would nonetheless stay on as Poland's pointman for the organisation of the 2012 European championships, which the country is due to co-host with Ukraine.

"The president Michal Listkiewicz came to give us guarantees, in theory with the blessing of the government, and when a delegation of the UEFA went to Poland at the beginning of July we saw them together - a sporting capacity and politics," Gaillard added.

"In light of the organisation of the Euro 2012, it is not good."

European governing body UEFA, which took a gamble in choosing the two ex-communist countries as hosts, has kept both countries on watch to ensure they are capable of meeting the infrastructure challenges and has also had the Polish game's problems in its sights.

Zawlocki said Poland aimed to reassure UEFA that Monday's decision would not hurt the 2012 tournament.

"We have sent a letter to UEFA head Michel Platini to assure him that preparations for Euro 2012 will go ahead unhindered and that nothing will change on this front," he insisted.

Listkiewicz told reporters he was "surprised" by the arbitration tribunal's decision and said he was taking legal advice.

Zawlocki announced that he had cancelled the PZPN's annual general meeting, scheduled for October 30, which had been expected to elect a new leadership for the federation.

"The annual general meeting will be called when order has returned to the federation," he said.

Polish football has been marred for over three years by repeated match-fixing scandals, with 120 individuals already prosecuted or facing trial, and a handful of clubs from various divisions have been relegated as punishment for graft.

The move by the Polish Olympic Committee at the behest of the country's reformist liberal government echoes efforts a year ago by the previous conservative administration to oust the PZPN leadership.

However, it was forced to change tack after finding itself under fire from world governing body FIFA.

FIFA takes a firm line over what it sees as political interference in the game, which flies in the face of world football's rules.

The government was forced to back down, and the PZPN leadership was reinstated.