KEIR RADNEDGE: That the most insidious form of football matchfixing appears to have come home to the cradle of the game is no surprise to Chris Eaton.
The former FIFA ‘policeman’, who is now director of sport integrity for the International Centre for Sport Security, has long warned that sport in general and football in particular was not working hard enough to combat the danger.
Eaton has long tracked the individuals and networks operating out of south-east Asia including the notorious Dan Tan – who is in detention in Singapore – and ‘local fixer’ Wilson Raj Perumal.
“It was only a matter of time,” said Eaton, “before the English game was caught up in this global wave of matchfixing in football.
“The arrests in Australia of English journeymen footballers several months ago were a wake-up call.
“The truly shocking thing is that when you read the report and hear the recorded conversations in this case, it confirms that the fixers are really amateur, unsophisticated criminals.
“Their cocky self-confidence can come only rom not being seriously tackled in the past. That they got away with it for so long in so many places speaks more to the general naivety in football and to the lax supervision of criminally targeted people in football, like players and referees.”
Although fixing is as old as the game, most of the recorded scandals in the last century were all about turning the results of games for ‘sporting’ reasons i.e. promotion or relegation.
This was not, however, the exclusive cause. An English football scandal in the mid-1960s, involving England internationals Peter Swan and Tony Kay, was about betting.
More recently, the explosion of worldwide gambling courtesy of the internet has exposed football to an unprecedented attack with new cases being revealed from one country to another almost every week – most recently in Austria.
A conference industry has been generated so the great and the good of sport can hold up their hands in horror but effective defensive action by federations and leagues remains patchy.
World federation FIFA and European body UEFA have both created early-warning systems and FIFA has been running a number of workshops around the world to alert national associations.
As with sport’s pursuit of doping, however, the cheats continue to lead the race.
As the international players’ union, FIFPro, has pointed out, it is players at the lower levels of the game who are the most vulnerable to bribery and the most difficult to track because the bent matches are beyond the mainstream media focus.
This does not matter to the betting fraternity. Only the match itself matter, not its status or profile.