GENEVA — The first trial in Switzerland’s five-year investigation of corruption in soccer ended Tuesday without a judgment, seemingly beaten by the coronavirus pandemic and an expiring statute of limitations.

The decision by the Swiss federal criminal court had become inevitable. The trial of four soccer officials related to the 2006 World Cup opened on March 9 but was then suspended because of limitations on the court during the coronavirus outbreak.

The suspension was extended last week, pushing the prosecution beyond an April 27 deadline to resolve the case.

Criminal proceedings, including against German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, were announced more than 3½ years ago but ultimately came to court too late. The court said in a statement it was circumstances and “not procedural errors” which caused the case to be closed.

Two German members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, Theo Zwanziger and Horst Schmidt, plus former FIFA secretary general Urs Linsi, were charged with fraud.

A third German official, Wolfgang Niersbach, was charged with being complicit in fraud in an alleged collective attempt to mislead a 2006 World Cup oversight panel in Germany.

Beckenbauer was not indicted for health reasons but was listed as a witness by video link to the court near Switzerland’s border with virus-hit northern Italy.

The case involved a $7.6 million payment 15 years ago that passed from Beckenbauer via a FIFA account to Qatari soccer powerbroker Mohamed bin Hammam.

Prosecutors acknowledged when announcing the indictment last August the true purpose of the money was unclear.

QATARI SOCCER and television executive Nasser al-Khelaifi will go on trial in Switzerland in September, implicated in providing a holiday villa to a FIFA official linked to a World Cup broadcasting deal.

Switzerland’s federal criminal court on Tuesday said the case will begin on Sept. 14.

The court listed eight days in September to hear the case against al-Khelaifi, former top FIFA official Jerome Valcke and another broadcasting executive who was not identified.

Al-Khelaifi, the president of Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain who also runs Doha-based broadcaster beIN Sports Group, was charged in February with inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.

The three-year investigation centers on Valcke getting to use a luxury villa on the Italian island of Sardinia rent free in 2014 and 2015. At the time, Valcke had influence over FIFA broadcast deals, including an extension of beIN’s Middle East rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.

Lawyers for al-Khelaifi said a criminal complaint has been filed on his behalf because confidential information about the case has leaked.

ROBERT HERBIN, a player and storied coach of Saint-Etienne during the French soccer club’s glory years in the 1960s and ’70s, has died. He was 81.

Saint-Etienne announced the death of Herbin on Tuesday, without giving a cause, and described him as a “mythical character of French football” who “embodied” the club.

Easily recognizable because of his permed red hair, Herbin played for Saint-Etienne from 1957-72 and won the French league title five times in that period. He was a defender who also captained the team, and played 23 times for France.

He took over as coach soon after retiring at the age of 33 and revolutionized the fitness regime at the club from central France in the first of two spells in charge. He led Saint-Etienne to three straight league titles from 1974 and another in 1981 — when France great Michel Platini was in the squad — as well as three French Cups. Saint-Etienne also reached the European Cup final under Herbin in 1976, losing to Bayern Munich in Glasgow.

Herbin returned as coach at Saint-Etienne from 1987-90, after shorts stints at Lyon, Al-Nasr in Saudi Arabia and Strasbourg.

MICHAEL ROBINSON, who won the European Cup with Liverpool and became a respected and widely popular soccer broadcaster in Spain, has died. He was 61.

Robinson’s death was announced Tuesday by his family on his official Twitter account. The cause of death was not given, but 16 months ago Robinson revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer.

After his playing days, Robinson captivated Spaniards with his soft-spoken commentary that carried a strong accent but remained clear, entertaining and showed his deep knowledge of Spanish soccer.

“We’re deeply saddened,” Liverpool wrote on Twitter. “The thoughts of everybody at Liverpool Football Club are with Michael’s family and friends at this sad time.”

Liverpool CEO Peter Moore said he was “ absolutely devastated ” by the news.

“I had the honour of being interviewed by him last year and spending time reminiscing about his days at @LFC,” Moore said. “What a pleasure it was… You’ll Never Walk Alone, Michael.”

Robinson’s one season at Liverpool, which also earned him a league title medal in 1984, was the peak of a career that included spells at Manchester City and Brighton. He also made 24 appearances and scored four goals as a striker for Ireland in the 1980s.


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