The integrity of the world’s most popular sport has been challenged following revelations of a worldwide match fixing scam. Prosecutors allege that World Cup qualifying matches and European soccer championships – including the Premier League – were fixed by corrupt officials reporting to an organized crime ring operating out of Singapore. Investigators say they won’t release names of players, teams, or affiliates until the investigation has concluded, but suggest professional soccer organizations must improve how they monitor match fixing and corruption.
The European anti-corruption task force Europol, lead the investigation and discovered 680 games that were subject to match fixing – 380 in Europe, and another 300 in markets around the world. Europol says they followed sportsbetting and online gambling activity between 2008 and 2011, which lead them back to a criminal organization in Singapore. Phone records, emails, and foreign deposits into bank accounts helped Europol uncover how extensive the corruption has become. The investigators claim that criminals profited over $10 million in bets made on fixed matches, and paid nearly $3 million to players, referees, and others to stage the games.
Head of Europol Rob Wainwright says there have been many cases of fixed matches in European soccer, but there is now indisputable evidence that organized crime has corrupted the beloved sport.
“This is the first time we have established substantial evidence that organized crime is now operating in the world of football. That highlights a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe.”
Wainwright says it will be difficult to track down all parties involved in the betting scandal because operators are all over the world. The money has been proven to go back to Asia, but a single staged game requires multiple people to do their part. Many scammers use unlicensed online casinos to front their criminal operations, which further complicates the investigation.
The Head of the UEFA, which coordinates European soccer games and the Champions League, seemingly dismissed the seriousness of Europol’s investigation. The organization says it will need to see the evidence before taking any further action. Wainwright and members of the league’s players association counter that the UEFA and the World Cup must drastically step up their anti-corruption security immediately, and restrict further cases of match fixing.
Wainwright says the corruption could damage the brand of soccer and the professional leagues if no action is taken to remedy the charges.
“This is a sad day for European football.”
Do you think the reputation of soccer has been tarnished? Let us know on Facebook.