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A new match-fixing scandal has hit German football, causing embarrassment to the World Cup hosts less than three months before the start of the finals.

Four people were arrested this week after an investigation into alleged match-fixing in the second division and regional league.

“There is no good or bad timing for something like this but the fact that it happens before what will be the biggest event in Germany over the next 50 years or so obviously makes it even worse,” German Football Association (DFB) chief executive Theo Zwanziger told reporters in Duesseldorf.

Players were approached and offered several thousand euros if they could help manipulate the result of at least five games, said chief Frankfurt prosecutor Thomas Bechtel. In at least one case such a payment was accepted.

The four were arrested on Monday and were being detained. Bechtel did not name them nor say which teams were involved so as not to hamper the investigation which is in its early stages.

The German Football Association (DFB) said the new cases were not on the same scale as last year’s scandal involving Robert Hoyzer.

Referee Hoyzer was sentenced to two years and five months in prison last November after admitting fixing several matches in return for payment from a Croatian betting ring.

“We have to state clearly that, according to the results of the ongoing investigation, no referee is involved and no first division club is concerned,” Zwanziger said in a statement.

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