By Tony Attwood
At the weekend I mentioned the failure of the UK media to report Uefa’s admission that match fixing has now reached such a high level that they can’t cope any more and want outside agencies to tender for the chance to study match fixing and report it back to Uefa.
This is, for me (if no one else) explosive news. We know that corruption exists in football because occasionally people are arrested in terms of what are considered by the UK media “match fixing scams” and we know that in other countries (notably but not exclusively Italy) there have been major corruption scandals not centring on gambling but on certain major clubs bribing referees.
Now Uefa has said that it can’t cope any more, yet I still haven’t any British paper touch the topic. And so I start pondering why. Why ignore the fact that the organisation that oversees football in Europe says that match fixing is now so rampant that it can’t deal with it by itself and needs the help of outside agencies?
1. They don’t think it applies to England
Of course there is a long history of match fixing in England going back at least to the era just before the first world war (we’ve covered it in depth in the series “Henry Norris at the Arsenal” on the Arsenal History website). Bringing this up to date in February 2013 Uefa released its survey of 380 European matches that were fixed, of which one took place in England. This was a Champions League game and details were not released at the time because of what were called, “ongoing judicial proceedings”. I don’t know what happened after that.
In 2013 six people were arrested by the National Crime Agency following an article in the Daily Telegraph that November. Before that there was the issue of at least one match involving Accrington Stanley being fixed – but of course these are all called minor affairs. The story happens, the story goes. It doesn’t apply to us, no more headlines.
2. Uefa is run by a funny bunch of foreigners who being foreign do funny things.
We know all about the activities of Fifa and their corruption – indeed as I have often liked to mention, it was Untold that broke the story that the law in Switzerland had changed to allow the US officials to arrest Fifa executives – which a few months later they duly did.
The media ignored our piece (see link above) but did get excited when the arrests happened. Yet even then there was no thought of consequences. Within a few years of admitting that the bidding process to give the World Cup to Qatar was fixed, England was back with a plan to spend another £10m of taxpayers money on another bid to host the WC without any certainty at all that Fifa had cleaned its act up.
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So the English media sees corruption as being a foreign thing, but we still want to be part of the game.
3. It spoils the image.
People, I have heard broadcasting executives argue, don’t want to know about corruption. They want to watch the match, cheer their team and yes sometimes boo the referee. That’s football and any talk of corruption spoils it. But of course the image has long since gone, as with the Daily Telegraph article of September 2016 in which it was revealed that their undercover reporters had found eight Premier League managers who were open to corrupt payments.
And this came after the appalling Sam Allardyce lost his job as England manager as the Telegraph filmed cash payments being made under the table.
They said at the tim,e “It leaves the FA facing its biggest crisis in recent years, as it deals with evidence that attempts to clean up the game have failed.”
The Telegraph then wrote that it had “agreed to give all relevant transcripts to the Football Association and has also passed information to the police. As well as the eight current and recent Premier League managers named by agents, two bosses of Championship clubs were said to have been open to so-called “bungs” – illicit payments.”
And since then? No clean up. Yes a lot of excellent work on chasing down child sex abusers but nothing on bungs or match fixing.
So when the media and the FA seemingly conspire not to follow up on revelations about corruption it is perhaps not at all surprising that they won’t publicise the fact that Uefa is saying that it can’t cope with the level of match fixing now going on.
I suspect (and yes of course I fully admit I have no direct evidence on this) that the only explanation is that the accredited media (TV, radio, major newspapers) sign deals which in return for access to clubs and managers means they agree not to publish anything at all about match fixing in England.
Now if you are 100% certain there is nothing wrong, that’s fine. But if, when Uefa says that match fixing in Europe is now so huge that it can’t cope any more, you feel that maybe there is something that is not being reported, then you share my view that there is a lot we are not being told.
We get the scraps of course such as Liverpool’s dealings with the signing of youth players recently and their subsequent ban for one year. And Chelsea’s dodgy deals with another one year ban from signing players, but Uefa isn’t currently talking about that sort of thing. It is talking about match fixing.
Maybe England is immune. But if it is, surely that in itself is a story. Surely the FA should be telling Uefa how, uniquely among Uefa countries, England is totally and utterly match-fixing free.
That, surely, is a good story. And yet we don’t get that. We get a total silence. And maybe it is just me, but I find that ominous.