By Tony Attwood
It may be a taboo subject in England, but Uefa are taking it seriously. “It” being what Michel Platini calls the “scourge” of match fixing.
And although if it is ever mentioned in the English media it is mentioned as something that those untrustworthy foreigners do, but English gentlemen don’t, slowly, very slowly, awareness is growing – although as the time line below for this year shows, it is a bit of a stop/start affair…
3 January 2013: Match-fixing allegations sweep South African Football Association and questions are asked about matches in the Africa Cup of Nations.
4 February: Fifa demand longer prison sentences for match fixers as news of 700 matches being fixed emerge.
5 February: Paul Put, the Burkina Faso coach who was banned in Belgium for fixing matches, claims the practice of match fixing has always existed in football and is widespread.
5 February: Debrecen FC confirm their goal keeper was questioned by Uefa officials in relation to a fixed game involving Liverpool.
8 February: Rafael Benitez claims he is surprised about Liverpool match being investigated for match fixing as he doesn’t remember anything unusual about it.
10 February: Europol’s match-fixing investigation confirms the extent of the problem, and says what they have found so far is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg
19 February: Ben Paterson of betting intelligence company Sportradar’s says 250-300 out of a possible 30,000 European football matches are likely to be fixed each year.
19 February: Shanghai Shenhua are stripped of their 2003 Chinese title. This is the club that Didier Drogba. They are fined and lose points for thje next season, while individuals get life bans and jail sentences.
20 February: Fifa’s director of security Ralf Mutschke says his organisation is focused on protecting football but cannot stop organised crime groups which run match-fixing rings.
21 February: Italian police arrest Admir Suljic, who is suspected of being a central part of a group involved in match fixing.
15 March: FA at last acknowledges concerns about Conference South games, but put it all down to “suspicious betting patterns” – in other words blaming the gambling world in order to avoid any investigation at their end.
20 March: David Beckham has to back track somewhat on his role as global ambassador for Chinese football – after questions are put to him about match fixing in China.
And now it is June – and we have… well not much.
The retreat of PGMOL (the body that provides referees for the Premier League) in the face of constant stats from Referee Decisions and indeed from Untold Arsenal, is still symptomatic of the English problem. PGMOL responded to our enquiries and an attempt to compare refereeing across Europe by closing down their web site and refusing to answer questions.
And so Platini, speaking in England recently, has had a go at everyone involved in doing nothing.
“Six years ago now, in response to this problem of betting, corruption and match-fixing, as well as the problems of hooliganism and doping, I called for the establishment of a European sports police force.
“There has been no response to those calls so far. Given the absence of any reaction and the lack of awareness on the part of politicians, I renew that call today.
“We are not dealing with petty criminals who are looking to make ends meet. It would seem that we are, in some instances, dealing with mafia-type organisations that are using certain matches to launder money, tarnishing our sport in the process.”
Platini has also spoken again of financial fair play project, saying…
“In order to prevent the current system from collapsing and stop the bubble from bursting, Uefa had a duty to step in, and it will be up to independent bodies to punish the few clubs that have not realised that football can no longer live above the rules.
“I am well aware that, [in the UK] words such as ‘interventionism’ and ‘regulation’ can cause alarm. However, the Premier League and the Football League have themselves grasped the importance of this matter and the need to adopt financial fair play.
“Financial fair play was established in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of European clubs. The philosophy of this project can be expressed in one sentence and is, above all, simple good sense: ‘Do not spend more money than you make.'”
So there we have it. A flurry of stories, and then… no action, and the media closes down the case, presumably on the grounds that it will harm their coverage of football, and the readership that results from that.
Still, at least we will continue to make as much fuss as we can. And we can ask the question in the headline: Are corruption stories being censored, or did corruption just stop?
Just stop? No I don’t think so.
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