MATCH fixing in football has developed into a â€œsignificant global threatâ€ that could ruin the game and now involves organised crime infiltrating some European clubs, senior investigators have alleged.
Sporting authorities and governments were urged to deliver a coordinated response to the problem at the Soccerex Global Convention in Manchester, where it was revealed a friendly tournament for under-16s in Hong Kong was affected and up to 80 countries a year have reported an incident. It was also claimed corrupt players are being transferred to different countries â€œspecifically to fix matchesâ€ and that front companies created by organised crime networks have taken over some European clubs. No clubs were identified because police are currently investigating the claims.
Emanuel Medeiros, the chief executive of the International Centre for Sport Security, said: â€œThere was a ghost match between a team from Portugal and Spain that people could bet on [online]. The match didnâ€™t happen. That shows how match-fixing has evolved. It also applies to club ownership.
â€œIllegal organisations are using front companies to take over clubs in Europe. I have evidence that this is the case but I cannot say which club or which country, although these are legitimate questions. This case [the ghost match] is a prime example. There is the transfer of convicted players. What have sports authorities done to prevent this? This is a wake-up call. We need a concerted, global response, not just nice talk.â€
Medeiros was part of a high-profile delegation including John Abbott, the chairman of the steering group for the Interpol-Fifa initiative to reduce corruption in football, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Football Association, Mark Sutcliffe, and Darren Small of Sportradar, a company that monitors sporting events and unusual betting patterns throughout the world.
Sutcliffe admitted the Hong Kong league had been tarnished by recent match-fixing allegations and gave an alarming insight into how corruption is seeping into the lowest levels of the game. He said: â€œWe staged an under-16s invitational friendly tournament involving teams from across Asia. On the morning of one game I got a call from one of Darrenâ€™s colleagues [at Sportradar] to say they knew what the result was going to be. I contacted the law-enforcement agencies but, as the teams involved were not from Hong Kong and it didnâ€™t involve anyone from Hong Kong, they said they had other priorities. It doesnâ€™t bear thinking about if match-fixing is infiltrating at that level.â€
He added: â€œAt the end of last season nine people were arrested at the end of one of our matches, six players and three officials. The investigation is not concluded yet but it can have a huge, detrimental impact on our reputation, on sponsors and crowds and, ultimately, on the development of football, of grassroots and the womenâ€™s game. Our league starts this week and it is having a detrimental impact now.â€
Medeiros, the former head of the European Professional Football Leagues, appealed for tighter regulations to curb match-fixing. â€œIt is urgent we have a globally organised, concerted response,â€ he said. â€œThe deficit of regulation in sport and in Europe is not acceptable. It is deadly for the sport.â€
Sportradarâ€™s Small alleged that bought players and officials are being deliberately moved to a club or a league at the behest of match-fixers. He said: â€œWe have evidence of players being moved into a country specifically to fix matches. They are â€˜go-toâ€™ guys.â€
Abbott, a former policeman, claimed there was complacency towards match-fixing in England and the prevailing â€œit couldnâ€™t happen hereâ€ attitude was dangerous. The Interpol-Fifa steering group chairman said: â€œJÃ©rÃ´me Valcke, the general secretary of Fifa, called match-fixing â€˜the greatest threat to football that can kill the gameâ€™. Football is top of the league as a target for match-fixing. Cricket is second.
â€œIt is a global problem; 60 to 80 countries a year have reported allegations of match-fixing in football over the last three years. It is a significant global threat now and we need solutions to prevent it ruining the game.â€ – The Guardian