The cat’s out of the bag as Europol has found nearly 700 suspicious matches and possibly the biggest match fixing scandal the football industry has ever seen. The scale of the global match-fixing scandal has reached new levels with criminal gangs as far as Singapore fingered as culprits.
The details were released on Monday and at least one Champion’s League game, featuring an English game, is under scrutiny. It’s a game no one probably remembers but Liverpool’s 2009 match against Hungarian team Debrecen is one of those under investigation. So far there has been no suggestion that Liverpool FC was party to the scandal and isn’t suspected of any involvement or misconduct. In fact, reports suggest that Debrecen’s goalkeeper was paid to ensure at least two goals were allowed in the match. The result shows he failed in his mission, if there ever was one, as Liverpool won 1-0 in the end, with seven attempts on goal.
The more sensationalist writers are decrying the match-fixing as threatening the whole sport and putting on a level with the doping scandal in cycling. However, if you actually look at cycling as a sport it’s hardly doing badly. Yes, on a global scale there’s been criticism and many individuals have been found out but it’s still extremely popular. It’s in its element after the Olympic Games and Bradley Wiggins so it’d be silly to say it’s irreparably damaged.
The same can be said for football, one of the world’s most popular games. If scandal was enough to destroy a sport then there’d be no football fans left in Italy. In 2006 Calciopoli rocked Serie A and saw Juventus sent down a league. Did their fans all desert them? Of course not. They accepted their punishment, were suitably cowed and within a couple of years were back on track.
Officials in this worldwide match-fixing investigation have confirmed they’re looking into around 380 European matches and 300 games across other continents, mainly Africa. There are rumours of a worldwide network of criminals, lead mainly by a Singapore betting cartel. Bribes of up to $180,000 have been mentioned and it’s clear this is criminal activity on another level.
Match-fixing can be traced back many years, with the bad Friday events in 1915 between Liverpool and Manchester United cited as one of the earliest examples of such shameful activity. However, calculated international bribery on this scale has never been seen before in the sport and it’s bound to have a significant effect on how things are carried out in the future.