AFC investigates possible match-fixing at Asian Games and UEFA poised to tackle TPO

Weekly Media Recap 22 -28 September 2014

Published 01 October 2014

This week, UEFA declared its intentions to tackle third-party ownership of players in Europe, since the practice raises questions of integrity and transparency in the sport. The proposed rules would suggest the setting up of a new body to assess the ownership of players and clamp down on third-party ownership.

Furthermore, this week’s media has also been witness to several investigations and sentences. In Georgia, eight football referees have been arrested in connection with alleged spot-fixing, whilst thirteen Estonian and two Slovakian football players have had their bans extended worldwide by FIFA. In addition, the Asian Football Confederation is also investigating possible match-fixing at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.

 

CURRENT INVESTIGATION

Asian Football Confederation

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is looking into reports of possible match-fixing at the Incheon Asian Games, the continental governing body said on Saturday. An official of the betting-related data provider Sportradar recently told a Singapore newspaper about possible match-fixing in Incheon without revealing which teams were involved. "Following recent reports of possible match manipulation at the Incheon Asian Games 2014 football competition, the AFC would like to confirm that we are closely monitoring the situation," the AFC said in a statement. The soccer body said it was collaborating with the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), which organises Asian Games, to look into the matter. "We are also working hand in hand with Sportradar to thoroughly review the provided information on suspicious betting patterns. Match-fixing is rampant in Asia with cases being reported across the continent, including recent scandals in Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia. The AFC is determined to eradicate match fixing in Asia and we will ensure that no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of our goal," the Kuala Lumpur-based body said.

Source: Amlan Chakraborty and Pritha Sarkar, "AFC says looking into match-fixing allegations at Incheon", 27 September 2014, Reuters, https://in.reuters.com/article/2014/09/27/games-asian-afc-fixing-idINKCN0HM0DC20140927

Georgia

Eight football referees of 16-team Georgian football league have been arrested in connection with alleged spot-fixing in matches, the Interior Ministry said on September 24. The scheme, according to the Interior Ministry, involved so called spot betting in which odds are offered to number of yellow and red cards, as well as on penalties or other incidents during the match. Eight referees, among them a FIFA referee qualified to officiate at international level, are accused of taking cash ranging from USD 2,500 to USD 5,000 in exchange for securing favorable number of bookings in matches they were officiating. Georgian Football Federation said in a statement that the investigation was launched after it requested “for a number of times” from the law enforcement agencies to probe into “information received from UEFA about suspicious matches in the Georgian national championship.” “There have long been rumors about it,” Zviad Sichinava, president of the Georgian Football Association, said about spot and match-fixing allegations. He stressed that the investigation should continue, but instead of focusing only on referees the probe should widen in order to also include much wider circle of illegal betting groups.

Source: "8 Referees Arrested in Alleged Football Spot-Fixing", 24 September 2014, Civil Georgia, https://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=27683

Hong Kong

A former Happy Valley captain and assistant coach accused of asking a teammate to throw a soccer game last year has been cleared of match-fixing. Fan Weijun, 35, was acquitted of incitement to commit conspiracy at Eastern Court. Fan was originally charged with conspiracy to defraud, but that charge was amended on Tuesday. He had pleaded not guilty to the original and the amended charge. The court previously heard that Fan had attempted to fix a Senior Shield match between his team and Sun Pegasus in December. A day before the game, he rang then reserve goalkeeper Leung Man-lai to ask him “to lose three to four goals”, the prosecution alleged. In court, Deputy Magistrate Colin Wong Sze-cheung said he could not convict Fan based solely on that evidence, noting that Leung failed to recall other parts of the alleged phone conversation. Wong said the words could have been taken out of context, and noted that Leung had agreed with Fan’s lawyer Albert Poon that they could have been intended to be motivational. The deputy magistrate also said that just because Leung had helped the investigation of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, that did not necessarily mean Leung’s own judgment about what had happened was correct.

Source: "Ex-Happy Valley soccer player found not guilty in match-fixing trial", 24 September 2014, South China Morning Post, https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1599597/ex-happy-valley-soccer-player-found-not-guilty-match-fixing-trial

Laos

The Laos Football Federation (LFF) will conduct an investigation, if required, into allegations that two of Laos’ group matches at the Asian Games in Incheon were corruptly influenced, said LFF general secretary Rasphone Xaybandith. Suspicions of match-fixing surfaced at the Games’ men’s under-23 football competition, after sports betting analysis firm Sportradar told The New Paper that unusual betting patterns from three matches — Laos’ defeats to Malaysia (0-4) and Saudi Arabia (0-3), and Nepal’s 4-0 loss to Iraq — have come under scrutiny. Laos exited the competition after losing all three of their matches in Group A. Twenty-nine nations competed in the men’s under-23 football tournament at the Games, with the round of 16 currently under way in the battle for one of the Asiad’s most coveted gold medals. But the spectre of match-fixing could threaten the Games’ reputation, particularly after Tajikistan defender Khurshed Beknazarov’s expulsion for failing a drugs test.

Source: "Laos promises probe into match-fixing allegations if needed", 26 September 2014, Today Online, https://www.todayonline.com/sports/laos-promises-probe-match-fixing-allegations-if-needed

Spain

A Spanish state prosecutor has summoned players for questioning over possible match-fixing in a 2011 Spanish league game between Levante and Real Zaragoza. The state prosecutor’s office in Madrid said in an email that it “has started procedures to investigate match-fixing and has summoned players implicated for questioning on 3 October”. The match under investigation was played during the last round of the 2010-11 season. Zaragoza won 2-1 at Levante with two goals from the current Atlético Madrid captain Gabi. That victory saved Zaragoza from relegation. In June 2013, the Spanish league president, Javier Tebas, included the Levante v Zaragoza match in a list of nine matches that the league was investigating for possible match-fixing. It is the second Levante match in recent years to have come under suspicion of match-fixing. If the state prosecutor finds evidence of a crime the case will be brought to a judge. Match-fixing is a crime in Spain and can lead to prison sentences for individuals and a club being banned from official competition.

Source: "Spanish prosecutor summons players over possible match-fixing", 25 September 2014, Associated Press, https://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/sep/25/spain-prosecutor-summons-match-fixing-levante-real-zaragoza

 

GOOD PRACTICE

Hong Kong

Amid concerns about the susceptibility of sport to international match-fixing syndicates, the Hong Kong Football Association has signed a deal with fraud-monitoring consultancy Sportsradar to track local games. Sportsradar will deploy its team of analysts to monitor every Hong Kong football match and alert the FA if they detect any suspicious behaviour. Match fixing is considered a high risk in Hong Kong football due to the relatively low salaries of players and the prevalence of illegal online gambling sites. A report by the Sunday Morning Post last week highlighted the links between such websites and the shady world of organised crime and match fixing. Many of the syndicates involved in the rigging are believed to operate out of Singapore and Malaysia. Part of the new deal would see the Hong Kong FA focus on fraud prevention, with a series of workshops aimed at raising awareness among players and officials, chief executive of the Hong Kong FA said.

Source: Bryan Harris, "Fraud detectors Sportsradar hired to foil Hong Kong soccer match-fixing", 28 September 2014, South China Morning Post, https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1602658/fraud-detectors-sportsradar-hired-foil-hong-kong-soccer-match-fixing

UEFA

UEFA is poised to introduce new rules to tackle third-party ownership of players in Europe as early as next season. Transgressors ultimately face the possibility of transfer bans or having players excluded from the Champions League. As with the introduction of its financial fair play, there would be a transition period to allow clubs to comply with the new rules but the aim would be to clamp down on third-party ownership among clubs competing in the Champions League or Europa League. In Portugal, Spain and Eastern Europe where the practice has proliferated since it was imported from South America in the last decade, large numbers of players are now owned in part by third parties. TPO raises a string of integrity concerns stemming from a lack of transparency among those investing in the funds and the possibility of them exerting pressure on players, coaches and club owners. Even more seriously, the practice has been linked to match-fixing. The practicalities of any new rules are still being worked through by Uefa’s lawyers but one option would be to set up a new body to assess the ownership of players, alongside its existing disciplinary committee and Financial Control Body.

Source: Owen Gibson and David Conn, "Uefa plans rule change to clamp down on third-party player ownership", 23 September 2014, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/sep/23/uefa-third-party-ownership-champions-league

 

SENTENCES/SANCTIONS

Australia

Corrupt players at a Melbourne soccer club were so obvious in their attempts to fix games that players from other clubs questioned them about it. Four players and a coach from the Southern Stars have now pleaded guilty to rigging soccer matches, along with a Malaysian man linked to an international match fixing syndicate. The last of the men, Nicholas McKoy, 28, was convicted today and fined $1,500. He and a number of other foreign players were recruited by a criminal syndicate - headed by infamous Malaysian match fixer Wilson Raj Perumal - and offered to the struggling Southern Stars soccer club under a supposed sponsorship deal. Statements given by the players to police reveal the pressure they were under as they tried to fix the matches in last year's Victorian Premier League season on the orders of the syndicate bosses. Sportradar eventually noticed suspicious betting patterns around Southern Stars games and told the Football Federation of Australia, which in turn informed the police.

Source: Dan Oakes, "Southern Stars scandal: Soccer club's 'obvious' match-fixing sparked questions from rivals", 22 September 2014, ABC, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-22/soccer-clubs-obvious-match-fixing-sparked-questions-from-rival/5761204

Estonia and Slovakia

Thirteen Estonian-based players and two from Slovakia, already suspended by their own respective federations for match-manipulation, have had their bans extended worldwide. FIFA said two of the Estonian-based players have been provisionally banned until December 31 and another 10 until March 31, 2015, as a part of an ongoing investigation started in 2011. "The Estonian FA has been cooperating with national judicial authorities after the state prosecutor office opened fraud investigations in 2011 and has subsequently opened its own proceedings against several players," FIFA said in a statement. "In these 12 cases, the (Estonian FA) disciplinary committee is expected to render final decisions by the end of the year once all the necessary elements have been analysed," added the statement. The 13th player, Yaroslav Dmitriev, has been given a life ban from all football-related activities. FIFA said the Slovak cases involved Ivan Hodur and Robert Rak, who have been banned for 11 and 15 years respectively over the manipulation of club friendly matches in 2011. Hodur's ban will run on top of a 14-year suspension imposed on him last December over a separate case, bringing his total ban to 25 years.

Source: "Estonia, Slovakia players banned by FIFA for match-fixing", 26 September 2014, Reuters, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-25/estonia-slovakia-players-banned-worldwide-over-match-fixing/5770334

Singapore

Match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang will remain in jail after the High Court yesterday dismissed his appeal against his conviction for bribing three Lebanese football officials. Upholding Ding's conviction on three charges of corruption, Justice Chan Seng Onn said he agreed with the findings of the district judge who convicted Ding after a 25-day trial. However, the question of whether the 32-year-old businessman will serve his original term of three years in prison remains to be decided. The prosecution has appealed for a heavier punishment of four to six years' jail and a fine of between $120,000 and $300,000, while he has appealed for a shorter jail term. Yesterday, Ding's lawyer, Mr Hamidul Haq, argued that the prosecution had failed to link his client to the supply of women to provide sexual services to the referee and two linesmen. Mr Haq criticised the prosecution for not calling Dan Tan - alleged mastermind of a match-fixing syndicate currently detained without trial - and two others to testify regarding the prostitutes. Pointing to an e-mail Ding sent to Mr Sabbagh, with links to videos of bad refereeing decisions and telling him to do a "good job", the Deputy Public Prosecutor said this was as good as a manual on fixing matches.

Source: Selina Lum, "High Court dismisses match-fixers appeal against conviction", 22 September 2014, The Straits Times, https://news.asiaone.com/news/crime/high-court-dismisses-match-fixer%E2%80%99s-appeal-against-conviction

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