After 12 years of pressure, the media suddenly awakens to the idea of match fixing

By Tony Attwood

“Revealed: expected goals being used in football’s war against match-fixing”

That is a headline in the Guardian over an article by Sean Ingle, the newspaper’s chief sports writer.  As far as it goes, it is ok, in that it admits that all is not right with football, but sadly it doesn’t seem to want to go back a little and see why this is happening now – and how long it has been going on.

For the simple fact is that last October Uefa admitted that match fixing was now too big for them to handle on their own, and so they were advertising for help.   The Guardian, in common with all the UK newspapers and as far as I know all the UK blogs except Untold, refused to run the story.

So we did, under the headline Exclusive: Uefa admit match fixing is now too big for them to fight it.

Of course it wasn’t the first time we ventured into the issue of match fixing.  For example way back in 2013 we ran Is Uefa upping its game on racism and match fixing? Let’s hope so.

But with this latest initiative it is interesting that newspapers all over Europe ran the subject of Uefa’s warning about match fixing – except for the newspapers in England.  A point we raised in a second article  Why is the UK media utterly ignoring Uefa’s declaration on match fixing?

We stayed with the subject into November – but even after several articles from Untold taunting the British media for taking their “it is only something that foreigners get up to, no British person would ever do such a thing” attitude, they still wouldn’t run the subject.

Now I’ve written a lot of late as to why the media in England won’t look at the question of the oddities and vagaries of refereeing in the Premier League.  But with this article in the Guardian I wonder if the stonewall approach to the subject might be overcome.

I mean, if the Guardian admits that match fixing is taking place in England, then that is one step on the way to admitting that there is something wrong with the game that needs fixing.  But the next step would be to admit why the English media has ignored the topic for so long – and I can’t see them doing that.

But there other problems.  The Guardian article does not raise issues such as

  • How many matches have been fixed?
  • Are the authorities now at last, after long delays, just getting the tip of the iceberg ?
  • Why has no one mentioned this before, other than Untold Arsenal?

So we just have to take it as a story which in essence says, there might have been match fixing but the clever lads with their computers are now onto it.

Yet at the same time the article is a clever deflection from the issue that we have been raising that there is something seriously wrong with the PGMO.   The headline alone reprinted at the top of this page, suggests that the Premier League is on top of its game.

But is England taking match fixing seriously?  Er, well, perhaps not because…

“The Guardian has learned that there are more than 30 cases in over half a dozen countries where football analytics is being used in the package of supporting evidence – alongside suspicious betting patterns and intelligence – to bring those involved to justice.”

Which is an absolute piece of nonsense if we don’t know

a) whether the authorities consider this the tip of the iceberg or a comprehensive mopping up operation

b) what leagues are affected

“In one major case, two teams are suspected of “trading” the results of their league and cup games, so that one club was saved from relegation and the other qualified for Europe. Although there were no unusual betting patterns, the authorities believed a fix was at play and went to experts at Stats Perform, which used its Opta data to identify several red flags. The matter is with the sport’s governing body and the police force in that country.”

Ah – “that country”.  Some dastardly foreigners, I’ll be bound.

But we read on… 

“In another case, a team suspected of fixing the match had no touches in the opposition box, suggesting a lack of intent and triggering an alert.”

Fine – that’s good – investigate that.  But how about examining why prior to our game against them Leeds had committed a monumental 424 tackles (ie 146 more than Arsenal), have got 216 fouls against them (just two more than Arsenal) and 33 yellow cards (one FEWER than Arsenal).

Our reporting takes official figures and simply points out anomalies.  Of course you can use the latest super computer and fancy xG analysis – but why ignore other data that is sitting there in front of you?

But perhaps the greatest insult comes with the statement that “Match-fixing cases can take at least 18 months to be resolved,” when in fact our data is simply ignored totally.   We have been talking about match fixing for 12 years, but nothing has been done – and the press have not even had a spot of interest.

The data is open and staring everyone in the face, but because this comes from England rather than a place with lots of pesky foreigners, no one wants to know.