By Tony Attwood
Fifa has announced it will investigate the spot-fixing claims of Claus Lundekvam, the former Southampton defender who has claimed that he, his Southampton team-mates and opposing captains were involved in betting fraud on a significant scale
Meanwhile FIFA president Sepp Blatter has admitted that he did know about bribe payments made to former FIFA executives, but insists he didn’t think they were illegal at the time. (This following a Swiss court publishing its findings following an investigation into alleged illegal payments made by FIFA marketing partner International Sports and Leisure to former FIFA president Joao Havelange, and former executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira.)
So here we have a report which finds that Havelange had received at least 1.5 million Swiss francs and that Ricardo Teixeira was paid at least CHF 12.4 million from marketing partner ISL – all during Blatter’s reign – and Fifa and Blatter say they will investigate the latest scandal involving football in England!
Claus Lundekvam has confirmed that players deliberately manipulated set pieces such as corners and throw-ins in order to make money. A statement from Fifa said: “Fifa is monitoring this issue and involved its chief investigator in England. Once all information is known it will be decided who is leading the investigations.”
Lundekvam meanwhile told the Norwegian TV station NRK: “For a while we did this almost every week. We made a fair bit of money. We could make deals with the opposing captain about, for example, betting on the first throw, the first corner, who started with the ball, a yellow card or a penalty. Those were the sorts of thing we had influence over.”
In 12-years at Southampton Lundekvam (the club captain) made more than 400 league appearances. However some players were clearly kept in the dark. Francis Benali, for example told BBC Solent: “I can say categorically I have no knowledge of the betting allegations made by Claus… I wasn’t aware of it going on in the past so I certainly don’t know of it going on now.”
Matt Le Tissier, also at Southampton, however admitted in 2009 that he had once been involved in a failed spot-fixing coup. He admitted betting on the timing of a first throw-in and attempting to kick the ball out of play in a proposed scam in a match against Wimbledon in 1995, the year before Lundekvam joined Southamption.
Fifa, the Football League, the FA at that time all took no notice, even though the Sky pundit’s comments were published in his book.
So what are we to make of this? It could be:
a) Low level fixing of spot betting is or was commonplace, and players all knew that no one would give a toss about it. No points would be deducted, no players banned, no club thrown out of the league. In fact, criminal activity without fear of reprisal.
b) Attempts to beef up the sale of an otherwise utterly drab autobiography through the invention or expansion of a story.
c) Part of an endemic problem.
d) A side show invented to take attention away from the issue of the extremely odd practices of the PGMOL that runs match referees for the Premier League.
But this raises the question: if there is corruption in football, who on earth could be relied on to sniff it out?
Let us imagine, just for a moment, just for the sake of argument, that some clubs are giving favours to certain referees. These favours don’t relate to any particular game, but rather are generalised – the use of the French châteaux or Italian villa when needed for the family, for example. These corrupt clubs then “persuade” PGMOL to let these bought refs do certain games. In those games the bought refs then just edge matters a little for one side as opposed to the other. (It is the sort of thing we uncover every week of the year on Untold Referees).
Just assume that for a moment – I am not going to offer any evidence, this is just an assumption….
In this world, who would investigate this problem?
- Fifa – with their record of corruption?
- Uefa, with its dreadful record in sorting out issues? (I know a failure to handle racist issues does not mean that the organisation might fail to handle corruption issues, but one must consider all aspects of past behaviour when considering an organisation’s competence).
- The FA that has failed to act to investigate Southampton last time around?
- The League, also failing to investigate Southampton?
- Match of the Day?
It is getting hard to know who else might be asked, since it is possible to show that everyone is tainted in some way or other. Barclays Bank? Nat West Bank? MPs with their great record on expenses claims?
Which suggests that in English football we have a real problem. There is no sports organisation that is so clean, that we might trust it to undertake a rigorous investigation into corruption.
Bit of a bugger really.
If you think you know your Arsenal, it is time to think again. Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.
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