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Match fixing scandal: Euro Commission investigates, but we don’t do that in England

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By Tony Attwood

Whenever we publish an article which suggests that maybe, just maybe there is match fixing in England, you can be certain that the abuse will pour in.   Some writers will just write and call those of us who are investigating this possibility by every name under the sun.  Some will say that our research methods are flawed.  We’ve even had a flurry of comments of late which suggest that because we are looking for evidence of match fixing our approach is completely unscientific – as if the physicists who are looking for evidence of certain sub-atomic particles are not doing proper science because they believe in the standard model which predicts these particles, and so they are biased.

What such commentaries never seem to focus on is the fact that match fixing is going on all over Europe.   In fact the real debate for people who believe there is no match fixing in England should be: how has England escaped match fixing when it is so rife everywhere else?  What is it that makes England special?

In fact we have looked into this ourselves on this site, particularly by investigating the methods and approaches of the PGMOL – the group that runs the professional referee system in England.  Our conclusion is that far from making match fixing less likely in England, the way PGMOL is run makes match fixing more likely.   You can read many strands of our evidence on the Untold Corruption pages.

So I would like those who believe that there is no chance of corruption in English football to explain to me why they hold that opinion.

But first, let us consider what the rest of Europe thinks.

Last month a study by the European Commission looked at corruption in sport across the 27 states within the EU.   The study came up with ten major recommendations to help fight match-fixing in a more efficient way.

The report concluded that a series of loopholes makes it difficult to fight match fixing all the time in all states, and that the lack of any coherent legal system across the EU makes it hard to fight match fixing.  it also suggests the EU should be involved in setting up a convention on match-fixing – which the Council of Europe is now involved in.

But the major obstacles in prosecuting cases of match-fixing, the report says, is providing evidence to the prosecution.  The report says that spotting that a match may have been fixed is a huge challenge.  And it notes that spotting that a specific player or referee has deliberately manipulated a game is even harder.

The report concludes that these problems mean that time and again investigations are abandoned because of the difficulty of gathering evidence.  This doesn’t mean that there is not evidence of match fixing, but rather that the penalties for match fixing are generally modest, compared with the cost of gathering the evidence.   Thus where a single ref is found to be involved in match fixing he may lose his job – but the cost of gathering the evidence is huge.

Now this is an important point because if PGMOL are protective of their referees and like to deal with anything they think is odd internally, then it is going to be even harder to get the evidence.  Costs go up.

Is the PGMOL protective?  I can only say that it looks like it, given that since we started our series on referees the PGMOL has closed its website, and will not even respond with a “thanks but no thanks” to our enquiries.  Further when Walter, himself a referee, wrote to the associations across Europe asking how they monitor referees and keep the standards up, no one replied.  Not even an acknowledgement – save for one association that replied on day one and said, “no”.

The reason for this silence could be that there will be a dreadful fall out if it were ever shown that there is one or more corrupt refs in the Premier League rosta.  It would reduce the value of the TV rights, affect PGMOL and its sponsors, and bring down at least one major club for at least a couple of seasons.

According to the Council of Europe report, such difficulties lead to the abandonment of investigations or the dismissal of cases.   So the report recommends international cooperation including Europol.  It also wants more data on the causes, and the scale of the problem.

And that is what Untold is going to do.  We are preparing a report for the Council of Europe.  Of course they might not be interested.  They, like the AAA, might think that even by raising the issue, we are a bunch of *******.   But we’ll see.

There is a copy of the Council of Europe report here.   Once the Untold response to the report is written we’ll publish that as well.

All this comes at the moment that Turkey’s top football teams have been cleared of match-fixing by the country’s football federation while at a separate criminal trial 93 football officials, players and coaches are still facing charges.  Since the organisation is advising prosecutors this could sway matters – even though 22 league matches in the 2010-2011 season were said to have been targeted by match-fixers, with last year’s league champions Fenerbahce being banned from the European Champions League because of their involvement in the scandal.   Turkish international Ibrahim Akin was banned for three years for fixing the result of a game when his team, Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi, lost to Fenerbahce 2-0.   Serdar Kulbilge of Ankaragucu was handed a two-year ban for attempting to fix the result of a game that Fenerbahce won 4-2.

But it is in Italy that it looks as if once again prosecutions will go through.  Three teams in Serie A, Atalanta, Siena and Novara, are among 22 clubs facing trial this month accused of fixing matches.  52 players are charged, 33 matches are under investigation, and there is more to come.

And this after Juventus were relegated and stripped of two league titles in 2006 following an investigation into referee influencing.

There are now many other allegations covering Serie B, and these include allegations against Sampdoria.  Charges refer to a Balkan betting gang (the Gypsies) which allegedly bribed players to fix results or ensure a certain number of goals were scored.

The evidence comes from phone tapping [perhaps we should bring the News of the World back] and confessions.  Using evidence already obtained Atalanta has lost six points and Cristiano Doni has been banned for three and a half years. Giuseppe Signori was banned for five years.

In coming weeks more teams are expected to be called to trial – press reports in Italy speak of Lazio, Bari and Genoa being involved.  Napoli, defeated by Chelsea in the Champs League this year are also under serious investigation as is Antonio Conte who has just led Juventus to their first Serie A title since they were forcibly relegated in 2006.

So, here’s my interesting question.  Given that it is happening all over again in Italy, just as it did in 2006, given that the Council of Europe is worried enough to issue a report, given that PGMOL does behave in curious ways (having such a low number of refs, not rotating refs properly so that certain clubs keep getting the same refs, taking down their own web  site, not explaining how they can claim such a high accuracy rate in ref decisions – and indeed telling us virtually nothing), and given that our ref reports suggest that “it does not all even out in the end” – why is the AAA so strongly resistant to the notion that something might be amiss in England?

36 comments to Match fixing scandal: Euro Commission investigates, but we don’t do that in England

  • Family Enclosure Man

    Totally agree. Would love someone to checkout the officials involved in the ECL Final 2006!

  • Pete

    Hope something does come of this as something stinks and FEM your not wrong on the ECL in 06!

  • Mandy Dodd

    As we know, sometimes to our cost, issues that start in Europe have a habit of finding their way here. This will be a final warning for scudamore/pgmol and others to get their house in order. Will they take heed. If eufa think something rotten is going on here, let’s face it, they are not going to let us off the hook

  • Pete

    The full report is here:
    http://ec.europa.eu/sport/news/documents/study-sports-fraud-final-version_en.pdf

    It is pretty meaty stuff – well written too IMO after a quick scan – thanks for the pointer Tony!

    Check-out the table on page 46!

  • timao

    hard to tell the difference between possible fixing and downright incompetence sometimes, but maybe that’s the point.

    how hard would it be to get competent refs if they were offered a half-decent match fee? say 1per cent of the combined income of the players and managers involved, or a minimum £10k per game.

    recruit from the ranks of ex-tennis pros or some other sport that involves an ability to observe fast-moving objects (i.e. not bank managers and garden furniture salesmen).

    the pgmol is a joke they don’t even seem to understand their own rules. accidental handball in the box is particular bugbear. the rule states that it is only a penalty if there is movement of the arm towards the ball. but how many times have we seen pens given for the ball being kicked at an arm. now we have the ridiculous sight of players defending with hands tucked behind their backs like naughty schoolboys. it provides the referee with a perfect opportunity to influence the outcome of game without attracting any criticism.

  • Trennon

    Anybody questioning this site and sending threatening e-mails your way are clearly United supporters. I completely agree with your assessment into the fixing of matches in this country and would welcome a full investigation. The fact that Riley, who was blatantly in favor of United while being a ref himself, was appointed as chief in charge of the refs association, ensured that the ref favoritism shown to United will well and truly continue into the future. I personally am sick of it. Not only because I’m an Arsenal boy through and through, but because I’m a football fan. This year especially, we have seen some of the most blatant ref decisions under the sun and the amount of non penalties earned by United for blatant cheating. RVP’s clear penalty at the end of the Norwich game not given. Either their is match fixing or we have the worst refs in the world. Plus I want to see Dein investigated. How we could only have won 2 games in the last 16 he has refereed against us screams match fixing!

  • Mahdain

    the media and a certain fanbase reaction to these kinds of articles say a lot..they dont want the reputation of the league being harmed and cause their bosses some trouble and hence why a person who decides to even suggest match fixing is happening is ridiculed and called a moaner..there are serious questions that need answers from the PGMOL but yet they have decided to keep mum and act as if everything is alright.

  • Mik

    Remember how Wenger pointed out this year that a few teams (Tottenham?) are able to influence the fixtures? Maybe that would be interesting for them to research, although we can do little to dig deeper into this.

    Don’t worry about the release of the new book by the way. I will gladly wait if it means that you can add more information to it 🙂

  • Ezekiel Obanda

    I welcome the idea that match fixing investigations be conducted in each Country affiliated to FIFA!England included!

  • Strus

    I checked dates of this season MU and MC fixtures. Guess what? MU has fewer times to play 2, 3 and 4 days after last match than MC had. Fixtures were used to favour MU too!

  • Tasos

    “given that PGMOL does behave in curious ways (having such a low number of refs, not rotating refs properly so that certain clubs keep getting the same refs)”

    Sunday 13th May
    Sunderland V Man Utd…..Ref; Howard Webb

    The whole rotten system needs investigating.

  • @Tasos – LOL, 10-0 to ManU then to blow away the GD?

  • Mandy Dodd

    On the subject, another blog adressing at similar issues to this one had some interesting theories on what would happen in the Brum Blackpool game. This was posted early this week. This site believed the ref would put everything in Brums favour, and gave the reason. I took this advice, laid Pool, who had played brilliantly at 1.17 when they were 2-0 up. After that, the ref did everything to help Brum, offside goal, clear Pool pen not given, several mins of phantonm injury time, every decision against Pool.
    The result 2-2. I do not believe everything on this site, but a tidy profit last night

  • David

    For those that dont believe there is match fixing go and look at Jose Antonio Reyes treatment at old trafford . I have never and hope never to see again a player abused in such a way . There has to have been bent refereeing.
    On the refereeing beurocracy -the Catholic Church took a similar view to some tainted individuals within their ranks .In retrosepect they would have been best served getting to grips with the problem .
    Football needs to clean up its act . It needs to employ all the technology available to help referees judge the situations fairly and impartially .( Rugby refereeing is superb – the video replays actually add to the gane . People say it wouldnt work with offside – rubbish . Let the game flow if unsure then go back and review if a goal is scored )
    Some tines I wonder how valid Uniteds titles really are ??
    Keep up the good work

  • marcus

    I’m just putting my hands over my ears, going “nananananana”,
    and saying,

    “conspiracy theorists”

  • Edward

    This site is such a great innitiative and I bet it is getting attention from the PL-referees allready. Speceally those that might have something to hide…
    I hope it will develope in to someting larger like “Untold Referees” over time. Without the close binding to any specific club and with referee reports from every single EPL-game this site would be impossible to overlook. By that i mean for any one involved or associated with the game.

  • Stuart

    It’s impossible for me to imagine that match fixing doesn’t take place in the cash cow that is the Premier League. If it happens in cricket (allegedly?) and even horse racing then why would it not be in the premier league?? We have a history of allegations in English football, some unproven (either way guilty or not guilty).

  • WalterBroeckx

    Edward,
    if we could get more refs on our reviewers list then we could set it up as a completely different website apart from Untold Arsenal.
    That would be a great thing if we could get that far.
    Last summer we managed to triple our ref reviewing team. If we just could do that again this summer…. then we could almost cover every game if they all would stick to it.

    You started me dreaming…. 😉

  • Mandy Dodd

    Match fixing – this is England , could never happen here! A bit like politicians being corrupt and dishonest, only happens in other countries! Our media uphold the finest traditions of journalism too, and once more, are seen to do so

  • Prasanna Veeraraghavan

    It is really strange that the British Media could not only highlight the match fixing in cricket, catch the players red handed in camera and they keep silent on the same in soccer.

    Is it a way of accepting connivance?

  • Chrissie

    It seems to me that this season, the refs have been more blatant in favouring certain teams. Did anybody watch the Liverpool, Chelsea game? I watched in amazement as Chelsea got the Arsenal treatment, the ref completely igonored the horror tackles from Liverpool and when Chelsea started retaliating out came the cards. Looking forward to the ref review.
    And yes, something needs to be done, perhaps an e-petition open to all fans or some kind of demonstration outside stadias. It probably won’t do much but at least we can let the FA and PGMOL know that we demand change. Why should fans pay out for tickest with their hard-earned cash, only to be cheated out of a good result and why should teams be cheated out of points when it is so much at stake.

  • This is a fantastic idea, great stuff Walter and the team.

    While losing the reviewers from Untold would be a great loss to the site’s writing, I suppose the end game of the process is an independent site once referees from other sides are on the team. A referee analysis website would be fantastic – something like zonal marking does for tactics, but for refereeing.

    It’d be great for raising awareness too – specific articles on fallacies of refereeing etc.

    Walter – have you thought of getting in touch also with English academics who deal with football? There is a lot of work out there on various parts of the game, including referee bias (generally in terms of looking at home advantage). if you could get academic interest in the work, that would open the door for funding, and therefore expansion of the reviewing team through some form of payment, like an academic researcher would get.

    I look forward to reading your response to the report though!

  • FinnGooner

    This was interesting. I read few pages and this on page 117 cought my eye:
    United Kingdom
    There are several ongoing police investigations that could lead to criminal
    sanctions, including one in snooker and one in football (confidential information, no further details). SO English football is clean?

    Also there was a mistake that I noticed (not baad but still. Pesäpallo is Finnish baseball not basketball.

  • finngooner – does that quote imply an ongoing police investigation into match fixing specifically? Because if it doesn’t, I’d presume they’re referring to the investigation into United’s transfer of Bebe.

    On the latter point, I’d be curious to see what Anne thinks of that re: money laundering. Mendes owned 30% of Bebe, then two Mendes clients (Ferguson and Mourinho) end up being interested in Bebe…

  • Andy Kelly

    Of course it could never happen in England. Well, not AGAIN.

    Look through the history of English football and you will find plenty of instances of match fixing.

    No reason why it still doesn’t go on.

  • Basil

    Maybe Arsenal players and management are taking bungs;could explain the abysmal defending on show.When you do some digging you might not like what you find.

  • Matt Clarke

    In Greece the offence carries a 10 year penalty. I would love to see bent refs, club directors and managers get 10 years in jail – plenty of time to discuss the offside rules.

    I liked the Aussie definition, which included, as an offence:
    “interference with the play or playing surfaces by venue staff”
    now why does that ring a bell?

    And, when I read this:
    “The Commission intends to establish a network of local research correspondents in each Member State, coming from civil society, academia and research, to gain insights into the state of play of implementation of anti-corruption policies”

    And Recommedation #8: to Raise Awareness (of corruption);
    and #10 Further Data

    I thought, naturally, of UA!

    Maybe, once the Levenson Enquiry have finished with investigating the activities of the printed media they can go on to investigating corruption in sport? Wouldn’t it be odd if NewsCorp (through BSkyB and SkyBet) were involved in that too?

    Be afraid corrupt officials – be very afraid.

    By the way, for a EU Commission document it was rarther worryingly full of typographical error: did anyone get the reason for the apparently random capiTal letters in the Contents? Let’s hope they are better at spotting corruption in sport than they are at spotting it in their own reports :s

  • allevkev

    Keep knocking at the door Tony, eventually they’ll have to listen…

    Who have we got at West Brom???

  • none

    West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal
    Referee: M Jones
    Assistants: M McDonough, R West
    Fourth Official: A D’Urso
    Match Delegate: D Smith
    PGMO: U Rennie

    Tottenham Hotspur v Fulham
    Referee: P Dowd
    Assistants: D Bond, A Halliday
    Fourth Official: S Attwell
    Match Delegate: N Cusack
    PGMO: B Curson

    Everton v Newcastle United
    Referee: A Marriner
    Assistants: S Ledger, A Watts
    Fourth Official: K Friend
    Match Delegate: T Dolan
    PGMO: D Horlick

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Timao……¨recruit from the ranks of ex-tennis pros or some other sport that involves an ability to observe fast-moving objects (i.e. not bank managers and garden furniture salesmen).¨You have never officiated since you’d know if you did, that officiating is a multi-faceted activity, not just demanding a skill at following a ball around but judging a player’s intent, assessing the legality of an event, positioning oneself to see as much as possible without interfering with the play,coordinating with the assistant referees, timekeeping etc. Therefore, following your logic maybe a tennis player, with a criminal psychologist degree,skilled at surveying, who works on an assembly line, and schedules buses would be a great candidate.
    Second observation; you don’t really know the Laws as you state that it is a penalty, ¨ only if there is movement of the arm towards the ball. ¨ but the Law actually states that for the penalty to be given, the arm must NOT be in a normal playing position (ie: over the head or outstretched to block the shot, etc.. So if a player protects his or her genitals, then it is rare that a penalty would be awarded as that is a very normal position for anyone facing a heavy object cannoning at them at 30 km/hr or more!
    Please check your ¨facts¨ before writing down your thoughts.

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    We(the typical upper-class British aristocratic Football fan…oxymorons?) all know that those vile,filthy,greasy, cheating,diving,low-lifes in Europe and Latin America ALL subscribe to the nefarious arts of corruption and cheating from conception to cremation.
    HOW could anyone who has a British spine, a PURE sense of British fairplay and a stiff upper lip, EVER be accused of corruption or cheating!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?
    We are God’s gift to the world, WE invented the beautiful Game, WE assumed the white man’s burden, we ¨civilized¨ the dark,ignorant masses (starting in England…a work in progress)and brought enlightenment, a sense of law and order (our law /our order) to those soulless savages in the colonies and elsewhere and who mow dare to challenge such a noble and selfless pedigree?????????
    People who subscribe to this philosophy have given true meaning to the world INSULAR.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    Why do they do not do football favour and investigate FIFA (or at least UEFA) while they are at it? (this is a rhetorical question because for whatever reason, we know what the answer would be somewhere close to “we cannot because we are not allowed”)

  • Jacobite Gunner

    Domhuaille MacMathghamhna, em, ur getting a little political are you not?

    this is a footy blog (of high class and intellect most of the time), nonethless, still a footy blog. If you need to grind ur axe, try running or cycling or something

  • bob

    dom,
    What’s that?! Are you slating the sceptic aisle!

  • bob

    ffs, or the septic isle?

  • FinnGooner

    Phil that could be about United thing as it was just undergoing investigations.