Match-fixing rampant

GARETH WHEELER

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

As fans, we never want to question the sanctity of sport.

We operate under the assumption the desire to win and the love of the game is what drives professional athletes.

But all too often, that has not been proven to be the case. When money and greed seep into the equation, match-fixing and pre-determined outcomes rear their ugly heads, threatening the legitimacy of the game.

This is exactly what Canadian investigative journalist and author Declan Hill uncovered in the writing of his new book, The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime.

Hill went on a four-year pursuit to find how deep the match-fixing river runs through the soccer world.

His findings suggest the worst case scenario: Soccer, on all levels, including the Olympics and World Cup are poisoned by match-fixing.

SOCCER NUT

These serious allegations by a self-proclaimed soccer nut have subjected Hill to a ton of criticism from the footballing community world wide.

Hill's assertion that certain Ghana players were involved in fixing games in the 2006 World Cup, including a 3-0 loss to Brazil, have led to a lawsuit being filed by the Ghana Football Association.

Hill learned of the above, and the workings of other match-fixing, mostly through Asian organized-crime and gambling syndicates. His research and sources, although compelling, have been questioned by his skeptics who suggest most of Hill's evidence is based on third party hearsay.

In his defence, Hill describes, at length, the many face-to-face meetings and eye-witness accounts of the people who run the operations, the middle-men and implicated players themselves and how the matches are fixed.

Regardless if you believe Hill or not, or whether you believe a match on the world's biggest stage could be fixed, an extensive history of match-fixing and inadequate safeguards make this investigation that much more intriguing.

If you want to use the where-there's-smoke analogy, then the soccer community likes its game well-done.

Let's face it, a history of corruption and sketchy activity make Hill's suggestions that much more probable. Match-fixing has recently happened and the powers that be have done little about it.

The Calciopoli in 2006threw Italian football into complete disrepute, by implicating various teams in the Serie A and Serie B of match-fixing.

The punishments handed down were nothing short of a joke, so much so that AC Milan was still allowed to compete in the Champions League the following year and won the competition.

It helps when the guy who runs the club, Silvio Berlusconi, also runs the country. Clearly, this was a case of football's commercial value being placed before any kind of integrity.

More recently, FC Porto was punished for influencing officials, but was not stripped of its league title and is still competing in Champions League this week.

This is shameful and clearly the guys who run the show are too set on benefiting financially to realize the entire foundation of the game is being mocked.

Further to Hill's point: Corruption is wide-spread through Asia and we are naive to think that it's not influencing the European game.

It's no secret that the Asian market has become a powerhouse on the global market. It's also no secret that Asia's obsession with European football equals the prevalence of gambling in the Far East.

So, the problems that plagued various Asian leagues for years, to the point where entire domestic leagues were dissolved, are starting to emerge globally, according to Hill. In the past, corruption was merely a local or national endeavour.

During Communism's era, players, referees and the like were threatened by strong national organized-crime rings, so that certain teams would win, year in, year out. Still, in Eastern Europe, cries of corruption reign and the soccer hot-beds of Germany and Brazil also have been tainted by bribed officials.

And with the game's co-beneficial relationship with bookmakers and gambling agencies, it's clear that the sphere of the Asian influence is on the rise.

Is there anything wrong with gambling being involved in the game?

Absolutely not.

THEY'RE IN BED

Does gambling necessarily mean matches are being fixed? No way. But there's no denying the two are in bed with one another, opening the door to corrupt individuals.

The solution is putting proper security measures in place.

And, according to Hill, FIFA is not doing enough.

All major leagues this side of the Atlantic have vast departments of former FBI agents to oversee that the games are on the up and up, different from the soccer world where their agencies are completely understaffed and insufficiently organized to fight the battle.

And despite those steps, the Tim Donaghys of the world slip through the cracks.

Hill says FIFA and UEFA have inadequately organized and understaffed departments that are, in his words, "a joke."

So the soccer world knows match-fixing is a problem, yet it refuses to take a hard stance. And we, the fans, know it's going on, yet we don't change our viewing habits.

If wedon't care, why should FIFA?


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