A lot of football fans and just ordinary sport fans around the world will have been shocked to hear about the extent of the match fixing scandal that has be exposed by Europol in the last 24 hours. Clubs they follow and matches they may have watched have been thrown into doubt as the size of the operation involved in exposing this evil has evolved. Needless to say, it is the usual suspects when betting irregularities are concerned, which is why the operation centered on the Asian areas, where Triad gangs operate almost with impunity. One high profile gang boss, Dan Tan is believed to at the centre of the most outrageous attempts to fix big games like Champions League matches.
Today, I can reveal that the English Premier League club that was involved in the Champions League match in England, highlighted by the investigation as being the match named in the report, was Liverpool. Their match against Debrecen was evidently targeted by Asian betting rings as one they wanted to fix. There is no evidence to suggest that Liverpool football club were in any way involved, and they were unaware of what had happened until today, when details were leaked.
But it emerged tonight the Anfield club’s game with the Hungarian champions in the opening group stage match in 2009 was the fixture Europol believe was the subject of the match-fixers. Reports in Denmark allege that Debrecen was approached to concede more than 2.5 goals by the Singapore-based gambling syndicate whose tentacles spread into 30 countries across the globe. Despite having 58 per cent of possession, though, and nine shots on target, Liverpool only won 1-0, courtesy of Dirk Kuyt’s goal when Debrecen’s Montenegrin goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic spilled a routine shot by Fernando Torres.
Fans in the UK may be deluded into thinking that this is some foreign problem, or that it only exists in far-off shores, but people of my generation will remember the Peter Swan scandal in the 1960s. Swan was an England international who played for Sheffield Wednesday. He and two other players were paid to throw a match. Whilst he has always claimed that he didn’t actually do anything to throw the game, they lost anyway 2-0. Swan was banned from football for life and imprisoned. His ban was rescinded a number of years later, but the best part of his career had gone.
Peter Swan has claimed in today’s newspapers that match fixing is more prevalent today that it has ever been, despite the astronomical salaries that are currently paid to footballers! Europol will be joining forces with FIFA and EUFA to formulate a plan to root out the cheats and will be dishing out lengthy bans for those caught. However, the gangs which are at the heart of these scams live beyond the law because of their geographical location. The authorities need to be looking for cooperation with the various Asian governments involved if they are to successfully stamp out this evil.
We are all losers if they don`t. We will all wonder, the next time there is an unexplained refereeing decision or an out-of-character slip up by a goalkeeper, in a match we are watching, whether the mistake is genuine or not!