Wednesday, February 6, 2013

(Sport) Football Match Fixing: Another Wart on the Face of the Beautiful Game?

Match Fixing or cheating in general in sport is nothing new with the numerous scandals that have come to light over the last few years notably in cricket and cycling but some reason, cheating or match fixing in football has been greeted with shock with the news of a Europol investigation into the sport finding that “380 matches across Europe… (were) fixed”[1]. Europol also the widespread involvement in match fixing scheme run by a ‘organized crime syndicate’ citing that “around 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals (are) under suspicions”[2].

In their investigation, Europol made public their suspicions that unbelievably, “World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, two Champions League ties and "several top football matches in European leagues"” were fixed[3]. Some may ask why Match fixing has taken place and the answer is rather simple, money. According to the guardian, “Criminals put 16 million (euros) on rigged matches and made 8 million (euros) in profits”[4].

However for all Europol’s findings in their investigation into the beautiful game, it has been met with ire of footballs biggest football, namely, the FA, UEFA and FIFA due to Europol not giving the football authorities a heads up to their investigation[5]. In light of Europol suspicions that match fixing took place a champions league game  in England, the FA went on the defensive stating that  “"The FA [is] not aware of any credible reports into suspicious Champions League fixtures in England, nor has any information been shared with us."”[6].  this also corresponds with FIFA’s calls for greater “cooperation with law enforcement agencies” and UEFA  restating it stance of ““zero tolerance” for match fixing”[7] .

While Europol’s claims come across as sensational, it would be unwise to argue that football is free of instances of match fixing. Just last month, FIFA  took swift action by banning for life 41  South Korean players “who had been involved in prearranging matches”[8].  Key football figures have warned of the threat Match Fixing poses to football with FIFA official Jerome Valcke citing it as a disease and a threat (that) is on a worldwide basis” [9]. Michel Platini , head of Europe’s ruling football body UEFA, cited  match fixing  as the “greatest threat to football”  as he imagined a scenario that "If tomorrow, we'll see a game and we already know the result, football is dead"[10]. However if match fixing will kill football, it has definitely had taken its best shot in recent years, particularly in Italy.

The most infamous case of match fixing in recent years took place in Italy with the  Calciopoli scandal which ended with the  relegation of Juventus and the stripping of their recently won Serie A title. It is an scandal that still haunts the Italian game with participants in the scandal still making headlines[11].

The game in Italy has been blackened further with revelations of match fixing taking place at the higher reaches of Italian football once again with  a number of players and managers investigated and eventually banned, including Lazio player Stefano Mauri and Juventus’s championship winning coach and former player Antonio Conte[12].The investigation even disrupted the national team’s Euro 2012 preparations when Italian paid a visit to their training base “to speak to Zenit St Petersburg defender Domenico Criscito as part of a wide-ranging investigation into match fixing”[13] .

Italy, unfortunately is not the only country affected by match fixing as the crime has proved itself, like a growing number of crimes, to be a global phenomenon. The Europol investigation found that “in total, 380 European matches are under suspicion, with a 300 in Africa, central and South America and Asia also identified”[14].

In sum, Europols’ findings on football match fixing are shocking but not surprising as there has been serious cases of Match fixing is one of the games top leagues and beyond. The institutions involved in policing the game have paid much lip service to the destructive effect that match fixing can have on the beautiful game but have done little to make sure  it keep its integrity.  

[1] The Guardian, Europol: investigators identify 380 fixed football matches,
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid      
[5] D. Conn, 2013, Europol’s match-fixing bombshell leaves football authorities in the dark,
[6] Ibid, quoted by Conn
[7] Ibid
[8] P. Pinto and T. McGowan, 2013. FIFA official Jerome Valcke: ‘Match Fixing is a soccer disease’,
[9] Ibid
[10] The Independent, 2013, Match Fixing great threat to football says Michel Platini,
[11] Sportsnet, 2012, Italian Match Fixing Refs Ordered To Pay $5M,
[12] A.Johnston, 2012, How Italy has reacted to the latest match-fixing arrests,
[13] CNN, 2012, Police raid Italian soccer squad’s base in match fixing investigation,
[14] R. Scott-Eliot, 2013, Football left in crisis by police report that says match-fixing is rife,

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