New York Times and Sunday Times investigations uncover a web of deceit
There are countless reasons why match fixing is akin to doping, perhaps even the spectator equivalent. Loyal fans pay extortionate amounts of money to travel home and away to watch their favourite team in action. Yet most aren’t remotely aware of the volume of recent and past cases, and the ease at which it can be executed to precision, who kicks off, the first yellow card, and so forth.
How would people react if their beloved club shaved points or purposely missed a spot kick? Incensed, outraged and cheated don’t quite cut it. Drug cheats have long been castigated by the media for reaping the rewards over superior or inferior opponents, but not a lot gets said about match fixers. Both are shrouded in secrecy, swept under the carpet until someone exposes the wrongdoing, for example, masseuse Emma O’Reilly and journalist David Walsh in the Lance Armstrong case. Recent revelations by the New York Times and the Sunday Times have exposed one of football’s biggest scandals, and unmask those responsible. Match fixing has been FIFA’s (and football’s) elephant in the room for far too long, with the governing body preferring to tackle incidents of racism and doping. But these reports offer definitive evidence that can’t be ignored.
The NYT article, based on a confidential (withheld) FIFA investigate report and other files, describes how a match fixing syndicate involving referees, manipulated matches in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It believes up to 15 games were prime targets. The South Africa vs. Guatemala exhibition is one of the games under scrutiny, after officials from Football 4U, in which serial fixer Raj Perumal worked, took charge. The game finished 5-0, marred by a series of dubious handball decisions and penalties.
Author of The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime, Declan Hill, provides definitive proof that Champions League and World Cup tournaments have fallen into the grasp of match fixing consortiums, having gone undercover to reveal the shocking truth. He recently said: “The gamblers are not Africans. They are Europeans and Asians. So they have a lot of money to bet on these things.” Unfortunately, the buck doesn’t stop there. The Sunday Times uncovered Qatar’s plot to buy the 2022 World Cup. The data led investigation chronicles payments made by Mohamed Bin Hammam to FIFA executive members in order to secure votes. The Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee released the following statement, following its investigation of the bidding process:
“After months of interviewing witnesses and gathering materials, we intend to complete that phase of our investigation by June 9, 2014, and to submit a report to the Adjudicatory Chamber approximately six weeks thereafter. The report will consider all evidence potentially related to the bidding process, including evidence collected from prior investigations.”
However, some bookmakers have already suspended betting on the country losing its right to host the finals in eight years’ time. Coral’s John Hill added: “We’ve stopped taking bets on whether Qatar will keep the World Cup as the latest allegations suggest it looks most likely now. We’ve also seen some interest in England getting the 2018 tournament which is not out of the question now according to the odds.” The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL) denied any involvement or knowledge of corruption and has been backed by Asian Football Confederation President Sheik Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, although he expressed “grave concerns over media reports”.
“Following today’s newspaper articles, we vehemently deny all allegations of wrongdoing. We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar’s bid and our lawyers are looking in to this matter. The right to host the tournament was won because it was the best bid and because it is time for the Middle East to host its first FIFA World Cup,” a SCDL statement read.