Ankara: Thousands of Fenerbahce fans shouted slogans outside a Turkish court house in support of 93 suspects, including the club's jailed president, ahead of the opening hearing of a match-fixing case on Tuesday.
Fenerbahce President Aziz Yildirim and 92 others have been charged in the scandal allegedly involving 19 league matches last season. They are scheduled to appear before the court near Istanbul.
League champion Fenerbahce was barred from the Champions League because of its involvement in the match-fixing scandal and it could be stripped of its domestic title and face relegation. Match-fixing scandals have tarnished leagues in Turkey, Italy, Israel, Finland and Greece last year despite UEFA spending millions of euros (dollars) to monitor betting and investigate cases in which players and referees were allegedly bribed.
"The government might collapse, (chronic) inflation might go down but Fenerbahce can never be relegated," Fenerbahce fans shouted outside the court house in the town of Silivri, near Istanbul.
The head of the Turkish Football Federation and two of his deputies resigned last month following a controversy on how to deal with teams implicated in match fixing.
In December, Turkey's Parliament approved a sharp reduction in prison terms for match-fixing and hooliganism, a move that will lead to lighter sentences for any suspects found guilty in the match-fixing scandal.
The Parliament voted for the new reduced term of a maximum three years in prison, overriding a veto by President Abdullah Gul who had argued that the amendments were giving "the impression of a special arrangement" to save suspects including Yildirim.
Fenerbahce went unbeaten through the second half of the season and beat Trabzonspor to the title on goal difference. Officials with Trabzonspor, which replaced Fenerbahce in the Champions League, have also been implicated along with officials and players from several other clubs.