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Match-Fixing Scandal: Tracking Latest Developments, Allegations, Investigation

Dan TalintyreSenior Analyst IIFebruary 5, 2013

Match-Fixing Scandal: Tracking Latest Developments, Allegations, Investigation

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    World football is currently undergoing a huge crisis that could completely change the game forever, with the revelation of a huge match-fixing scandal.

    Europol recently revealed that organized crime gangs have fixed (or tried to fix) hundreds of soccer matches across various tournaments and competitions in the past few years. We don't know which matches in particular are in question.

    The allegations could not be more serious for world football, having barely recovered from the body blow that it took during the recent Italian match-fixing scandal.

    There is still much to be established in the investigation, as much is still unclear about the crisis, including who, when and, perhaps most importantly, how.

    Keep checking here for all the latest developments and allegations from the Europol investigation. We will be updating daily with the latest news. 

    If there's a development or crucial news piece that was missed, please comment below or hit me up on Twitter.

    One way or another, it seems this match-fixing scandal is going to get a lot, lot worse for world football before it starts to get any better.

USMNT a Suspect in Scandal?

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    The United States men's team is drawing suspicion for involvement in the tampering scandal, but it appears that the suspicion has been clarified as an "attempt" and not an actual breach of conduct.

    Brian Phillips reported on Twitter that Bob Ley of ESPN's Outside the Lines brought negative light on the organization with new information:

    Bob Ley reporting that matches have been tampered with in the United States, including a USMNT game.

    — Brian Phillips (@runofplay) February 8, 2013

    However, Jonathan Tannenwald reported on Twitter that there had only been an attempt at that tampering, and no real action:

    To be clear: There is NO accusation that the USMNT was involved in the act of match-fixing.

    — Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) February 8, 2013

     

    Only that there was an attempt to fix a game in which the USMNT was involved. The opponent was approached by the fixers.

    — Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) February 8, 2013

    The worldwide football fixing scandal has rocked the headlines over the past few days, but it appears that the USMNT team has avoided any further inclusion into the negative light, per Tannenwald's report.

    We'll continue to update the United States' involvement in this saga as more information becomes readily available.

Original Europol Statement

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    This Europol press conference on Monday morning provided the first real information that we had on the issue, with a statement released online concurrently to the conference.

    They refused to name any players, matches or specific teams that could have been involved or even approached by the match-fixing syndicate, but they did offer up several details in their statement.

    Below are some excerpts of that original statement:

    A total of 425 match officials, club officials, players, and serious criminals, from more than 15 countries, are suspected of being involved in attempts to fix more than 380 professional football matches. 

    Among the 380 or more suspicious matches identified by this case are World Cup and European Championship qualification matches, two UEFA Champions League matches and several top-flight matches in European national leagues. In addition another 300 suspicious matches were identified outside Europe, mainly in Africa, Asia, South and Central America.

    The activities formed part of a sophisticated organised crime operation, which generated over €8 million in betting profits and involved over €2 million in corrupt payments to those involved in the matches.

Latest News and Developments

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    Much has been said and written since that original Europol press conference. Here's some of the bigger stories and pieces of information that have been revealed since then.

     

    —Update: February 8, 2013 at 6:30 a.m. ET—

    Leading investigator into the global match-fixing crisis Friedhelm Althans has stated that the press conference held by Europol on Monday did not correctly divulge information, and that there is confusion about which facts are true and which are not.

    The chief investigator with Bocham match police spoke in an exclusive interview with Sporting Intelligence recently, and had the following to say.

    Monday’s press conference led to global headlines saying that a Europol investigation had found almost 700 football matches had been fixed.

    But Althans has clarified in an exclusive interview with Sportingintelligence today that there should have been a clear separation in the press conference between ‘old’ cases in Europe – 380 of them, which have long been known about and prosecuted – and 300 “new” cases, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which Operation Veto has uncovered as a by-product of looking at the “old” cases.

    “On Monday the message was not clear,” Althans said. “The 380 cases referred to in Europe are old cases that everyone has known about, cases already dealt with by authorities in Germany, Hungary, Finland, Slovenia and Austria.”

    The 380 cases, he said, included matches outside those five countries, notably 79 fixed games in Turkey and others elsewhere where the prosecutions happened in Germany or one of the other five nations.

    For clarification, Althans said that when money was mentioned in the press conference, it should have been made clearer that crooked bets of €16 million, crooked profits of €8 million and bribes to those involved of €2 million related only to German cases.

    ——End of Update——

     

    —Updated: February 5, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. ET—

    English media outlet The Telegraph report that a Croatian gang has been heavily involved throughout Eastern Europe in fixing football matches. 

    They report that it is this group what were responsible for attempting to throw the Liverpool Champions League match against Debrecen that is under question.

    When investigators from the organised crime task force in Bochum, Germany, began running wiretaps on a Croatian gang they hoped to find evidence of drugs and prostitution business. Instead, they heard discussion of football matches rigged for profit on an industrial scale. Following through with a vigour seldom matched by prosecutors elsewhere in Europe, the Bochum police uncovered a network of corruption that they believe may have been responsible for fixing as many as 300 matches across Europe.

    According to Bochum police, 150 of the 380 suspicious European games highlighted by Europol this week come from their files. “We have evidence for 150 of these cases and the operations were run out of Singapore with bribes of up to 100,000 euros (£87,000) paid per match,” said Friedhelm Althans, a senior officer.

    Games in Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia and Belgium were all thought to have fallen prey to the Sapina gang, working in cooperation with Singapore-based financiers who in turn are thought to have been funded by Chinese organised crime groups.

    ——End of Update——


    —Updated: February 5, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. ET—

    A BBC Sport report on the financial amount that the betting syndicate is believed to have made from the entire match-fixing scandal notes:

    In Germany-based matches alone, criminals wagered £13.8 million (16 million euros) on rigged matches and made £6.9 million in profits.

    Officials fear this is as the "tip of the iceberg." In addition to the £13.8 million wagered on Germany-based matches, payments of £1.73 million are thought to have been paid to those involved.

    The BBC report also states information regarding the progress that Europol have made, noting that they have analyzed 13,000 emails and 680 matches in 30 countries and have identified 425 total suspects, 50 of which have been arrested. The report also states that 80 search warrants have been obtained.

Matches and Players Involved

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    Europol were quick to point out that they would not be revealing the names of any players, clubs, matches, competitions or club officials that are suspected to be involved so that they would not jeopardize the ongoing investigation.

    However, details are slowly beginning to emerge regarding matches that are thought to be under question and possible teams that could have been affected by them.

     

    —Update: February 8, 2013 at 6:45 a.m. ET—

    As discussed on the previous slide, Friedhelm Althans is the chief match-fix investigator with Bochum police and has recently spoken via Sporting Intelligence about the new match-fixing revelations and which matches/teams have been involved with the fixes.

    He clarified that mostly international matches were part of the "new" cases under investigation and that hardly any were domestic-based games.

    “On Monday the message was not clear,” Althans said. “The 380 cases referred to in Europe are old cases that everyone has known about, cases already dealt with by authorities in Germany, Hungary, Finland, Slovenia and Austria.”

    The 380 cases, he said, included matches outside those five countries, notably 79 fixed games in Turkey and others elsewhere where the prosecutions happened in Germany or one of the other five nations.

    The “new” information that should have been more clearly stated in the press conference, Althans says, is that 300 “new” cases have been looked at in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as “spin-offs” from the investigations into the fixes in Europe.

    Althans has clarified that of the 300 “new” cases in Africa, Asia and Latin America, “around 90 per cent of those involve international matches”. Or in other words, around 270 international games are among the 300 “new cases”.

    However, these are not from the past two years. They relate to games played “mostly in 2009, 2010 and 2011″, according to Althans.

    ——End of Update——

     

    —Updated: February 5, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. ET—

    How many of these matches have taken place in lower-division football and how many have taken place in the top class is not known. However, details are slowly starting to emerge on a Champions League match played in England that is thought to be under serious question.

    Original comments from Europol, followed by comments from New York Times.

    “It would be naïve and complacent of those in the U.K. to think such a criminal conspiracy does not involve the English game and all the football in Europe,” Rob Wainwright, the director of the police intelligence agency, known as Europol, told reporters.

    Officials [would not] identify any of the teams and individuals newly linked to match-fixing, citing the need to guard the confidentiality of police procedures. Still, one new tantalizing detail did emerge: the revelation that one of the suspicious matches uncovered involving the Champions League—the most prestigious annual soccer tournament in the world—was played in England in the last three or four years.

    For those wondering, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur all potentially fall into that category.

Are Liverpool Involved?

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    Of all the big-name clubs involved in the investigation so far, Liverpool have had the most links put together with the match-fixing scandal. 

    That's not to imply that they categorically are or aren't involved; it's simply just a fact that they have had more press and publicity than all the other clubs put together.

     

    —Update: February 8, 2013 at 6:30 a.m. ET—

    As mentioned earlier, chief investigator into the match-fixing scandal Friedhelm Althans has clarified that Liverpool's 2009 Champions League against Debrecen was an "old case" (see slide three for more information on that) and that it had been all dealt with by UEFA and the appropriate authorities.

    Per Sporting Intelligence:

    “On Monday the message was not clear,” Althans said. “The 380 cases referred to in Europe are old cases that everyone has known about, cases already dealt with by authorities in Germany, Hungary, Finland, Slovenia and Austria.”

    The 380 cases, he said, included matches outside those five countries, notably 79 fixed games in Turkey and others elsewhere where the prosecutions happened in Germany or one of the other five nations.

    One of the most headline-grabbing single facts of Monday’s conference was the revelation that an English club had been involved in a “suspicious” Champions League match in England. It is known now this was Liverpool’s game with Debrecen in 2009.

    This too is an “old” case that wasn’t just known about but had already been prosecuted via Uefa and upheld by CAS. The goalkeeper involved, Vukasin Poleksic, was banned for not reporting approaches from fixers. He was not banned for fixing and maintains his innocence.

    ——End of Update——


    —Updated: February 5, 2013 at 7:45 p.m. ET—

    Eurosport posted on Twitter that Debrecen have confirmed they were part of a match-fixing scandal across more than one game, including against Liverpool.

    BREAKING: Debrecen have confirmed their match against Liverpool in 2009 was part of a match-fixing investigation

    — Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) February 5, 2013

    They then posted more on the development here

    Hungarian club Debrecen have confirmed that their Champions League match against Liverpool in 2009 was part of a match-fixing investigation.

    European enforcement agency Europol said on Monday one Champions League game in England was one of 380 games under investigation, and Debrecen confirmed a report in Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that their games were involved.

    A statement on Debrecen's website said: "The [UEFA] disciplinary committee's position was that Vukasin Poleksic neglected his obligations when he didn't report in time that, before two international matches of DVSC, unknown persons attempted to persuade him to influence the outcome of the matches.

    "The two matches were the away game against Liverpool and the home encounter with Fiorentina. Neither DVSC nor the player wish to react further, all the more so as all the information has been released about this affair during the summer of 2010."

    ——End of Update——

     

    —Updated: February 5, 2013 at 12:30 p.m. ET—

    Bleacher Report's Karl Matchett takes you through the need-to-know about Liverpool's allegedly "fixed" match in the 2009 Champions League.

    ——End of Update——

     

    —Updated: February 5, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. ET—

    Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet seemingly started the fire on Liverpool when they suggested that the Reds' 2009 Champions League match against Hungarian side Debrecen was fixed. Eurosport reported the following on that:

    Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet claimed that Vukasin Poleksic, Debrecen's goalkeeper for the match at Anfield, was approached to help ensure there were at least three goals in the match. Liverpool won only 1-0 with a goal from Dirk Kuyt, scored on the rebound after Poleksic saved a shot from Fernando Torres.

    Liverpool were quick to release a statement following that report to distance themselves from the claims that are merely rumors for the moment. Per BBC Sport: "We've not had any contact from Europol and no other agency has been in touch with Liverpool."

    The most logical reasoning for the links to Liverpool are because they are the only top-tier English team to have played Debrecen in the viable time period. Debrecen have had strong links with match-fixing before and are believed to have somewhat triggered the recent investigation. 

    Per Eurosport:

    Another of Debrecen’s matches during that Champions League campaign—the 4-3 loss to Serie A side Fiorentina—was subject to attempted match-fixing by a Croatian-led criminal gang, according to German police.

    That investigation in Bochum centred upon Croatian Ante Sapina, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2011 for fixing 20 matches across Europe, and forms the basis for the Europol one which highlighted widespread corruption on Monday.

Is Singapore the Home of It All?

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    All the reports of the match-fixing taking place and being organized by a group throughout Asia are all seeming to point to Singapore as the place of origin at the moment.

     

    —Update: February 8, 2013 at 6:45 a.m. ET—

    Chief investigator Friedhelm Althans (see previous slides) that all 300 "new" cases under suspicions have links to the same Singapore cartel.

    ——End of Update——

     

    —Updated: February 5, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. ET—

    Eurosport stated that the syndicate were based in Asia:

    An organized crime syndicate based in Asia is believed to be the driving force behind the fixing activity, which stretches across at least 15 countries, Europol officials said. Individual bribes were, in some instances, higher than $136,000, and fixers would place bets on the tainted matches through bookmakers in Asia.

    However, it is this latest report from FourFourTwo that seems to suggest Singapore is heavily involved in the creation and functioning of the syndicate.

    From a statement from the Southeast Asian city-state's police:

    The authorities in Singapore are assisting the European authorities in their investigations into an international match-fixing syndicate that purportedly involves Singaporeans.

    Singapore takes a strong stance against match-fixing and is committed to working with international enforcement agencies to bring down transnational criminal syndicates, including those that involve the acts of Singaporeans overseas, and protect the integrity of the sport.

Bleacher Report Comment and Reaction

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    Bleacher Report will have plenty of reaction and opinion pieces as the news continues to unravel about world football's latest nightmare—here's some pieces for further reading on the matter.

     

    —Update: February 8, 2013 at 7:00 a.m. ET—

    Whist Premier League managers certainly do not count as Bleacher Report writers, some interesting comments have been made by top class managers this week that deserve to be noted upon in the reaction section of this article.

    Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup has called for lifetime bans to be handed out for anyone involved with match-fixing (per BBC Sport).

    This sport is about winning, if you receive money to lose a game you should be banned. If you are a player or a manager, if you get paid to lose a game you should be banned forever.

    Then players would think about the risk of getting caught, it's quite a risk to take if you are banned for life - not like cycling where you may take something but get banned for a year or two, it should be for life.

    Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also commented on the issue, with the veteran manager making three very interesting comments via the club's Twitter.

    Wenger on match fixing: "I am completely surprised by the number of games that have been fixed. It is a real shock." #SFCvAFC

    — Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) February 8, 2013

    Wenger on match fixing: "We must deal with this, and those who cheat must be punished severely." #SFCvAFC

    — Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) February 8, 2013

    Wenger: "I don't believe match-fixing is a problem in England." #SFCvAFC

    — Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) February 8, 2013

    ——End of Update——

     

    —Updated: February 5, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. ET—

    Match-Fixing Scandal Threatens to Do for Football What Doping Has for Cycling

    An Open Letter Regarding the Match-Fixing Scandal

     

    What do you make of the match-fixing scandal? 

    Any news, developments or allegations that we should know about?

    Comment below or hit me up on Twitter:  

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