Well today’s sports news reports are all full of the latest match fixing scandal to hit world football. Seemingly, Europol (the European Union’s law enforcement agency which has the responsibility to assist in bringing about a safer Europe for the benefit of all the citizens of EU member countries) has uncovered a match fixing scandal of incredible proportions. Matches including World Cup qualifiers, a Champions League tie played in England, other European Leagues’ matches, matches from South and Central America, matches from African leagues as well Asian league matches are alleged to have been affected. The investigation was lead by Europol and 5 European countries, named as Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary and Slovenia. Reports are out saying that 425 match officials, players and club officials are allegedly involved with 50 people already having been arrested and 14 people being jailed in Germany alone at the time of writing.
Numerous criminal organizations are suspected to be involved in the match-fixing networks, as they utilize it as an accessible method of cleansing their money with suspicious games seemingly being identified from so many countries such as many nations from Asia and South/Central America as well as Switzerland, Canada, Turkey, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bosnia, Belgium, Croatia, Slovenia and even Germany. Last year according to reports on Sky Sports 380 games have been fixed and the head of an anti-corruption watchdog estimated that $1 trillion is gambled on sport each year – or $3 billion a day – with most of it coming from Asia and being wagered on football matches. No matches seem to have been immune from being fixed and following the old adage…”where there is smoke there is fire”…then there is clearly a massive problem here. This latest scandal is apparently emanating from Singapore which is not an enormous surprise considering the case involving Singapore businessman Wilson Raj Perumal, who was suspected of fixing games in a few different countries and was subsequently prosecuted and jailed in Finland in 2011 with his name also linked to similar match-fixing incidents in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. Europol are not currently suggesting that Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal is involved in the cases announced today but there are reports from media outlets saying that the gangs involved in today’s cases may also originate from Singapore and other countries which are close by geographically with the name Dan Tan being mentioned as a possible ring leader.
Fortunately, due to the numbers reported it seems most unlikely that any of the Blues’ matches could have been fixed as only one Champions League match played in England is a part of the scandal apparently. The games which are most at risk for example are games in the lower divisions of Finland and other such countries where African players and players from other less developed football countries are only earning a pittance of £100 per week and are therefore relatively easy to bribe and influence when they are away from their homes desperately trying to earn money to send home to support their families. It is a sad state of affairs but you cannot really judge such players when you have not walked a mile in their shoes. The temptation to commit such an act must be huge when in return for a month’s wages all they have to do is foul a member of the opposite team to produce a penalty/goal and settle the result of the match they are playing in. You cannot really blame the players who are just trying to provide for their relatives but I feel that taking advantage of such vulnerable people is totally despicable and the perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extent that the laws allow and they should be forced to give up all their ill-gotten gains and turn the funds over to the appropriate charities who can effect positive change in the countries where these players come from.
This problem is clearly wide spread when the man in charge of FIFA’s corruption initiatives, Ralph Mutschke (a former executive of Interpol) last month declared that no league in the world was safe from corruption anymore, with numerous calls being made from all sides for new measures to be enforced to deal with the diseases of extortion and bribery in sport. What is happening to our beautiful game?