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Greek soccer officials to stand trial for match-fixing

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) The chairman of Greek soccer club Olympiakos and 27 other businessmen and former sporting officials will stand trial on match-fixing charges, a panel of judges ruled Wednesday.

The judges ordered Olympiakos chairman Vangelis Marinakis to stand trial. No date was set, and the conditions for his bail were extended. Marinakis, a prominent Greek shipowner and news media investor, denied the allegations, while criminal charges against him for fraud and blackmail were dropped.

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“My innocence will be established in the court proceedings that are to follow,” Marinakis said in a statement.

Marinakis said he would step aside as chairman until he is cleared in court, and named deputy chairman Yiannis Moralis as caretaker.

The other defendants – all charged with similar offenses – include shareholders and former and current officials in several Greek clubs as well as former referees and Greek soccer association officials.

Professional soccer in Greece has long been marred by fan violence and allegations of corruption, with rival club officials frequently having public spats and openly questioning refereeing decisions considered key to match outcomes.

The country’s current left-wing government has suspended league matches several times because of violence and attacks against match officials.

Greek champion Olympiakos is currently playing the group stage of the Champions League and last week held Barcelona to a 0-0 draw in Piraeus.

Marinakis took over the Piraeus club in 2010 and also owns a controlling stake in English Championship club Nottingham Forest.

The Greek club is currently a surprise fourth in the standings following a string of poor results.

The investigation focused on matches from 2012-15, court officials said. Criminal charges of match-fixing – formally called “unlawful influence of sporting event results” – carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The other clubs implicated include current and former officials and investors from Atromitos, Levadiakos and Veroia.

The trial is expected to take place in mid-2018.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

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Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.

Tunisian player who collapsed in Spain regains consciousness

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MADRID (AP) Spanish third-division club Toledo says a Tunisian player who collapsed from heart failure during practice 10 days ago has regained consciousness.

The club says doctors removed sedative medication and Lassad Nouioui was responding well to treatment on Monday.

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They will consider removing the 32-year-old Nouioui from the intensive care unit if his condition keeps improving. Nouioui has played for a number of clubs during his 14-year professional career, notably a four-year stay at Deportivo La Coruna and a one-year spell with Celtic.

Nouioui collapsed on April 14.

The game against Real Madrid B the following day was postponed because of the problem with Nouioui.

FIFA force pace on $25B Club World Cup, global league plan

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA is forcing the pace on talks over a $25 billion offer to revamp the Club World Cup and create a global national team competition.

FIFA says President Gianni Infantino hosted a meeting last Friday with invited officials from some top European clubs.

[ MORE: Everton gets past Newcastle behind Walcott strike ]

The European Club Association has strongly opposed FIFA’s hope for a four-yearly club tournament starting in 2021, which could rival the UEFA-organized Champions League.

UEFA has also proposed a Global Nations League. A similar project is tied to the FIFA-controlled $25 billion, 12-year offer from a consortium including investors from Saudi Arabia and China.

FIFA says it’s holding “informal ongoing discussions with different stakeholders on the topic of the future Club World Cups.”

Infantino is set to meet confederation presidents and general secretaries “in the near future,” FIFA says.

Video: De Rossi, Roma make classy visit to Hillsborough memorial

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On many occasions there are instances where teams and individuals exemplify the fact that real-life occurrences are more meaningful than sports.

Ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League meeting, Italian giants AS Roma visited Anfield –where they will face Liverpool in the competition’s semifinals.

After walking around the venue where the two sides will compete in less than 24 hours, Roma captain Daniele de Rossi and the rest of the Roma squad visited the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield to pay tribute to the 96 victims lost in the 1989 event that rocked the entire country.

De Rossi was seen laying a floral arrangement on the site, along with a note from the club that read, “In memoria delle vittime di Hillsborough AS Rome.”