Genuine disappointment as English football is involved in vast worldwide match fixing

European Cup Final Wembley

Courtesy of UEFA.com

During this morning’s Europol press conference, I wasn’t expecting much other than perhaps a few incidents from distant corners of world football. But instead, European football and myself have been left shocked by the announcement that 680 matches have been fixed, with a Champions League tie in England one of a startling number.

The identity of the match has not yet been revealed, with further investigating required. However, it was confirmed that it was an organised crime group from Asia that was co-ordinating the so called deals.

Europol, the EU‘s law enforcement organisation, stated that around 425 match officials, club staff, players and ‘professionals’ criminals had been involved.

It is by far the most shocking match fixing allegation in history, with an English club’s Champions League match in the past four years effectively having false outcomes, plus a quite honestly saddening number of other matches tainted.

The crimes are basically an attempt to manipulate a factor within the match (such as player performance or referee decisions) with vast sums of money. Most commonly, in Asia, this is initiated in an attempt to cheat betting companies, as the punter will have an inside knowledge.

What exactly is affected in Match fixing is harder to predict in football, as there is so many variables, with 11 players and multiple refereeing possibilities. Click here for more information on the press conference.

Europol, told the world during the press conference in the Netherlands;

- A Champions League match within England in the past 3-4 years was fixed.

- Ongoing judicial proceedings mean the match is unable to yet be released to the public.

- Other matches that was fixed, included the World Cup, European Championships qualifiers and “several top football matches in European Leagues”

- In Germany, criminals wagered £13.8m on fixed matches, 

-  A total of 380 matches are believed to be corrupt in Europe alone, with 300 in the rest of the world.

 

The director of Europol said;

“This is the work of a suspected organised crime syndicate based in Asia and operated with criminal networks around Europe.

“It is clear to us this is the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe… We have uncovered an extensive criminal network.”

He also said a Singapore-based criminal network had been spending up to 100,000 euros ($136,500) per match to bribe players and officials.

The investigations have been ongoing for the past year and half, studying 680 matches in 30 countries, with 18,000 emails analysed, 425 suspects, 50 arrests and 80 search warrants obtained. There is no denying this is blow for European football on a gigantic scale.

My initial reactions, after shock, were strange. I was speaking to an Arsenal fan, who’s side have had been in Europe’s top competition consistently for over a decade. He shared the similar feeling that naturally we’re questioning and doubting certain achievements in modern times – and that of clubs one would never seriously attach match fixing with.

Yet it also felt rather inevitable. What is the state of the modern game, if the place were it all began, the nation with arguably the most passion and heritage connected to it, has now been involved in what could prove one of the most historic scandals in football history?

Yes that may sound hyperbolic, but initially the news looks like it could take a painful toll on English football’s already withering reputation with FIFA.

Match fixing had been seen in Italy in the past decade or so, with Juventus being stripped of titles and relegated from Serie A. But this is far from a single club involvement.

Europol said the UK is not the focus of these results, but with the Premier League‘s high profile and credibility, most didn’t expect this. Europol told the press that if English football fans believe match-fixing doesn’t go on in the English game, then they are naiive. Well, I guess I’ll have to admit I am then.

But, as I have already said, it does now seem like it was an inevitable piece of modern football. The incredible sums of money involved in all aspects of the game combined with the wide global reach of the world’s major leagues means such activity was destined to happen.

The news could become worse for most football fans, if it is players or managers that have been involved. If so, the reputation of certain clubs and heroes could forever been damaged.

More so, a club may believe they had perfectly achieved their success, only to later find out that an organised crime group had meddled with their fixtures.

It puts football in a position of limbo right now. When the findings are released, who knows which clubs and individuals within the game may be affected – plus stories will unfold from those involved.

In regard to the English Champions League game it leaves 5 clubs in a position of worry, knowing that their matches may well have been tampered with. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham have all played in the Champions League within the past 4 years – in which Chelsea have been champions, and Manchester United runners up twice.

It’d be almost horrifying if the history which has been created in recent years was to be proven as distorted.

I don’t know about you, but I find it worrying and sad. Football is for most fans, something to look forward to, something to play and enjoy away from the normality of everyday life, it has a pure feeling to it. But this really reflects the downward spiral that the game is in, in terms of it’s ethics. In recent times we’ve seen the game’s very own head organisation, FIFA, have bribes surrounding votes for it’s future tournaments, but now the matches themselves are under scrutiny and it’s major.

The World Cup? It’s no surprise that as match fixing is going on, the biggest event of the lot would be involved, but just the fact that certain outcomes in the World Cup were effectively fake is disheartening.

It’s a sad day for football. But it’s a realization of what a state the game is in. The findings may not be released for sometime with organised crime and the dangers that come with that involved, but the FA’s of all nations, and the various governing bodies need to seriously pull their finger out and at least help stop such immorality if they want to save our “beautiful” game.

 

By Stowe Gregory – @stowegregory

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