By Tony Attwood
In October 2020, under the headline Exclusive: Uefa admit match-fixing is now too big for them to fight it we ran the story about Uefa’s new policy of recruiting private companies to help it fight the scourge of match-fixing. The “Exclusive” tag was not 100% accurate, however – what we should have said at the time was “Exclusive for England” because the media in Europe were rather interested in the news.
But this time we really wondered why the issue was of no interest to the media in England – a point we raised in a second article Why is the UK media utterly ignoring Uefa’s declaration on match-fixing?
Obviously, it could be because there is no match-fixing going on in England, but if that is so it would be interesting to know why that is. The UK is the fifth largest country in Europe by population, and our interest in football is as high as in any other country.
So it would seem unlikely that those engaged in match-fixing should have unilaterally decided not to touch England, which has so many games each weekend through the season, and such a high level of attention paid to its matches across the world.
But to be clear, I am not suggesting that the media should reveal how match-fixing is being stopped in England, but if we have eradicated the scourge of football, surely we ought to be helping Uefa to help the rest of Europe to get rid of it. Yet at a recent conference on the subject, there was no sign of that.
Certainly, there is the point that the UK’s population do not lose as much in gambling per person (across all activities) as those in some other countries do. WorldAtlas published a top ten of losses – although this is across all gambling activities not just football. The figures are per year for the average person.
|Rank||Country||Gambling Losses Per Adult|
But still, we do have a big gambling industry, and it appears to be closely associated in some instances with broadcasters, and so it might have been expected that the media could have taken a little more interest at the time. Although maybe it is because Sky Bet is so closely entangled with Sky that the media decided not to cover these recent developments.
(To be clear Sky sold 80% of Sky Betting and Gambling plc to CVC Capital Partners for £600 million, and now retains just 20% of the operation. But meanwhile, the campaigning against betting advertising on the media is increasing).
But meanwhile one only has to listen to ten minutes of TalkSport to see just how central gambling is to football.
In the current crack-down, Uefa and Europol are seemingly now working together to take on what are being called “gambling networks”, and they have just held the first international conference on match-fixing in the Netherlands.
Following that the European Police Office and Uefa held their first joint international conference on in which Europol figures were quoted to show not just the size of match-fixing but the growth of match-fixing in recent years.
Burkhard Mühl, the head of Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre, made the point that “Organized crime have realized just how many football clubs are suffering financially because of Covid-19. With the huge profits associated with making the unpredictable predictable, we are seeing more and more cases of match-fixing and suspicious results.”
He then went on to say that players, coaches, officials and even club managers are increasingly susceptible to corruption.
The Economic Crime Centre is apparently now working with EU authorities to identify links between suspect matches and suspects and to uncover the groups orchestrating what have become multi-million euro frauds against sport.
Uefa’s anti-match-fixing team works to co-ordinate the work of those who focus on education, intelligence, and investigation across Europe, focussing on preventing any problems related to match-fixing and betting irregularities.
Over one hundred senior officials from law enforcement, judicial authorities and national football associations from 49 countries attended the joint Europol-UEFA conference at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. There has been some coverage of it on the internet in English but little in the major news outlets. This is exactly what happened when Uefa mentioned that it needed the help of private companies to tackle what it then called the endemic situation vis a vis match-fixing.
And the question of why is an interesting one. Is it because the news outlets think no one in the UK is interested, or is it because the major gambling companies are leaning on the UK’s news media not to spread stories that something in football might be amiss?
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