By Tony Attwood
Niko Kovac, coach of Croatia, said after his side’s defeat that they might as well pack up and go home now.
It’s a sentiment that many of us as Arsenal fans have felt over recent years as referee decision after linesman influenced referee decision has gone against us.
And I suppose because we are used to all this, and used to the media ignoring the story week after week, we’ve found ways to deal with it, including our referee reviews, and last season for the first time ever, referee previews, for each match.
We’ve also learned where the relevant questions are – questions that seem utterly beyond the wit of virtually any British journalist to ask.
Virtually any, but not any, for the BBC, the first news organisation to start to take notice of what we were saying, when they interviewed Walter and Dogface, ran the story “Could matches be fixed in Brazil?”
Here’s a part of what they said on 29 May…
“Surely the fixers would shy away from such a high-profile tournament, watched by billions around the planet and with football’s governing body on red alert for corruption?
“Not so, according to Ralf Mutschke, Fifa’s head of security.
“The former Interpol executive and police officer says he cannot give the World Cup a clean bill of health and has even identified the matches that carry the greatest risk.
“According to Mutschke, the following is all true:
- Certain teams and groups have already been identified as vulnerable to fixers
- The last round of group matches, involving teams with nothing to play for, are most in danger
- Warm-up games are also under threat
- Fixers have already approached players and referees
- The fix of choice will focus on the number of goals in a match
“Match-fixers are most likely to entice players or referees to influence two betting markets: the Asian handicap and the over-under goals market.
“On the Asian handicap, teams are handicapped according to their form, so a stronger team must win by more goals for a bet to be successful. Over-under markets are simpler. Gamblers are given the opportunity to bet higher or lower on 2.5 goals, 3.5 goals and so on.
“I would say I am most worried about these two markets,” Mutschke said.
“The match result is a possibility, but it is much harder to organise because you need so many players. With the Asian handicap or over-under, you may only need the referee or one or two players.”…
The BBC continues later…
“Mutschke says fixers have become bolder in their attempt to rig contests, making up-front offers to players and officials rather than attempting to groom them over time. “I’ve had reports that people are approaching players and offering $20,000 without a grooming period,” he says.
“Before, it was all about grooming, getting closer to the target, but we have a lot of records now about cold approaches. They go to the player or ref and offer money to throw a match. If he does not agree, they go to the next guy. This happens very often. It’s pretty bold.”
We all know what we saw in the opening matches, we know, because the BBC reported it, that even the utterly corrupt Fifa is now taking match fixing more seriously, and we know that the British media don’t like mentioning it. Instead they trot out the same story that they have been running for every world cup since 1958 – the trouble with the foreign refereees is that they aren’t British.
The tragedy of all this is that it is such a simple analysis to make. We see a game in which wrong decisions are given and we ask how that could happen. The four answers are
a) the ref and linesman made an honest mistake
b) although we can see the errors on replays in the heat of the moment from the angle of the ref etc, it is very hard to see the errors
c) the mistakes made were so gross and so obvious that any decent ref should not have made them and we conclude the ref and his team are incompetent
d) the ref has been bought to engineer a certain result or certain score.
The first three are rehearsed on the British media but not the fourth, despite Fifa’s own admissions about match fixing.
Now of course it may be argued that you can’t just go around saying that referees are fixed, because that is slander, although no more slanderous than suggesting they are incompetent.
But finger pointing and name calling is not really what I am writing about. It is about the possibility that games are fixed, and what that possibility is. Given what Fifa has said, what the BBC has reported and what we have seen, I’d say the possibility is very high that this WC is fixed.
Disallowing a goal of Giovani dos Santos once might have been misfortune but twice is careless and looked very much like an attempt to influence the result.
Interestingly the media are only slowly waking up to the fact that Blatter’s proposal to allow managers two challenges per match to a ref can only have been made in the light of the old crook’s awareness that other crooks are eating into his pie.
But still most of the media in general won’t debate this. Instead we have (admittedly sometimes amusing) attempts at humour such as, “The real victim of course will be Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura, who you can expect to find hiding in the amazon jungle forty years from now, feverishly brandishing yellow cards at bemused tribes people dressed in tree bark, unable to accept his tournament is over.” That from the Guardian.
The reason is simple. You will have seen it on Untold. Every time we raise the issue of match fixing, and present the evidence, there are many people who ignore all the evidence and instead scream and shout abuse at us for raising the issue of match fixing. You might remember that hilarious occasion where we gave as an example of things not being right, the issue of Tottenham penalties.
The vitirol that poured in was something you had to read to believe – and we had to delete a lost of the worst abuse that came in.
What was so amusing, but also so instructive, was that the Tottenham fans and AAA who attacked us, screamed that we were idiots because Tottenham had no penalties that season. In fact what had been written was that Tottenham had no penalties and clearly should have had several. We were saying Tottenham were hard done by, but the readership didn’t get that far.
But no, for the papers and pundits this notion of serious match fixing is not one to be discussed. Instead we get the Independent today where it is suggested that in all sports, “rancid injustice might be the most crucial ingredient, and it must be preserved.”
I think they were trying to be funny.
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