It seems the footballing world is about to be rocked by one of the biggest scandals in its history after Europol announced a joint investigation into 380 matches.
Sources including Reuters (via Eurosport) and Goal.com reported the news, and if what is coming to the surface now is true, this new mega-scandal will dwarf the likes of Calciopoli, the 2006 Italian football scandal.
According to Reuters, this is what is currently known:
Europol head Rob Wainwright said the joint investigation had identified about 425 corrupt officials, players and serious criminals in 15 countries. ...
Matches fixed included World Cup and European Championship qualifying matches and top flight league matches in several European countries. The investigator found that criminals from Asia also participated in the match fixing and that some of the fixed matches took place outside Europe.
In a press conference given by Wainwright, the investigator revealed:
This is the work of a suspected organised crime syndicate based in Asia and operated with criminal networks around Europe.
It is clear to us this is the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe.
We have uncovered an extensive criminal network.
English football was also brought under the microscope, especially Champions League matches played in England in recent years. If there is one thing we should take away from what Wainwright revealed, it is that this investigation could change our perceptions of the game as we know it. He commented:
The focus has been on other countries, not the United Kingdom. However we were surprised by the scale generally of the criminal enterprise and just how widespread it was.
It would be naive and complacent of those in the UK to think such a criminal conspiracy does not involve the English game and all the football in Europe.
He also perhaps echoed the thoughts of football fans worldwide:
This is a sad day for European football and more evidence of the corrupting influence in society of organised crime. But this investigation also proves the value of international police co-operation in fighting back against the criminals involved.
Europol and its law enforcement partners are committed to pursuing serious criminals wherever they operate. Unfortunately this also now includes the world of football, where illegal profits are made on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game.
All those responsible for running football should heed the warnings found in this case.
Twitter is already abuzz with the news pertaining to the alleged incident. Although not much is known at the moment, we must remember an investigation has already taken place. As such, any statements made by such authorities would be based on evidence.
It is fair to say that Italy has still not recovered from the match-fixing scandal which shook Serie A back in 2006—and that was just one country. The prospect of up to 15 different countries and 425 corrupt individuals is something far more wide-reaching.
If a scandal of such magnitude is brought to light, the poor image painted by the likes of divers and whingers could very well be the least of FIFA's problem. A game's image, reputation and standing hang in the balance.
More news to follow.