Integrity in sport update: players' survey suggests match-fixing is prevalent in British football

Weekly Media Recap 2 - 8 March 2015

This week, a dedicated match-fixing unit has been set up by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture. Tasked with collecting information and analysing evidence when suspicion of match-fixing arises, the unit is attached to the country’s Gaming Authority.

In another development, two former presidents of Spanish football club Osasuna and another four ex-board members have been charged following a match-fixing investigation. The charges include the misappropriation of funds, false accounting, falsifying documents and corruption.

 

CURRENT INVESTIGATION

France

A report into alleged match-fixing of Ligue 2 games last season has concluded that one match was subject to "an understanding" between the two clubs concerned. The report - drawn up by the former head of Paris' judicial police - is the result of a two-month enquiry into whether seven French second-tier matches last season involving Nimes, who were battling against relegation, were fixed. While the report uncovered details that suggested attempts to arrange results had failed in some of the six other matches, it claimed the result of the 1-1 draw between Caen and Nimes - a scoreline which ensured the former's promotion to Ligue 1 and the latter's survival - had been tampered with.

The French Football League's Disciplinary Commission will now sit on March 16 and 17 before deciding whether or not any action should be taken against the clubs or those involved.

Source: Ian Holyman, "Ligue 2 match-fixing report finds Caen-Nimes 'understanding'", 6 March 2015, ESPN FC, https://www.espnfc.com/french-ligue-2/story/2332580/ligue-2-match-fixing-report-finds-evidence-of-caen-nimes-understanding

Isle of Man

A bookmaker has lost thousands of pounds in a betting scam, where bets are placed on games that never happen. Isle of Man-based Celton Manx, who operate Sbobet, paid out on FC Slutsk's 2-1 'friendly win' against fellow Belarus side Shakhter Soligorsk. But the match did not take place, and both clubs say they were unwitting victims of a "ghost game". "We got a statement that the game took place, so we paid out," said Celton Manx executive director Bill Mummery. The statement, in Russian, was supposed to have come from FC Slutsk but both Belarusian Premier League clubs have denied any involvement in the fixture to the Belarus FA, who have reported the matter to the police and Uefa. Belarus police are also investigating a complaint from Shakhter, claiming that their website and mailbox had been hacked.

Source: Simon Stone, "'Ghost games' betting scam costs bookie thousands of pounds", 2 March 2015, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/31692786

South Africa

South Africa’s sports minister has accused Fifa of not acting decisively on match-fixing investigations. In an interview with The Associated Press, Fikile Mbalula criticised the failure of football's governing body to complete an investigation into whether 2010 World Cup warm-up matches were fixed. Fifa found strong evidence of match-fixing in games involving South Africa in the weeks before the World Cup, with accusations that referees manipulated the games for illegal Asian betting syndicates. Fifa agreed in April 2013 to allow the South African government to set up an inquiry. But the lack of progress led Fifa's ethics committee to start investigating the matter later in the year. In response to South Africa's complaints about the match-fixing investigation, Fifa ethics committee investigatory chamber said it “cannot confirm whether or not there is any investigation pending regarding the subject”.

Some of the South African warm-up games under scrutiny are believed to have been manipulated by referees working for the Singapore-based betting syndicate of Wilson Raj Perumal and Dan Tan, who is accused of co-ordinating a global crime syndicate that made millions of dollars betting on rigged matches.

Source: Rob Harris, "Mbalula pressures Fifa", 4 March 2015, Sapa-AP, https://www.iol.co.za/sport/soccer/mbalula-pressures-fifa-1.1826584#.VP1A3o5JeJ8

Spain

Two former presidents of Spanish football club Osasuna and another four ex-board members have been charged following a match-fixing investigation. The regional court of northern Navarra says a judge has charged former club presidents Miguel Archanco and Patxi Izco and ex-board members Txuma Peralta, Angel Vizcay, Juan Pascual and Diego Maquirriain with misappropriation of funds, false accounting, falsifying documents and corruption. Peralta was denied bail, Archanco's bail was set at 500,000 euros and the other four were released. All six were arrested over the previous two days as part of an investigation into the disappearance of at least 2.4 million euros from the club's coffers between November 2013 and June 2014. Court number two of Pamplona, the capital of the province of Navarra, confirmed Thursday it was investigating Osasuna for match-fixing after Spain's Professional Football League filed a lawsuit.

Source: "Two former Osasuna presidents charged with corruption", 8 March 2015, Associated Press, https://www.espnfc.com/osasuna/story/2336502/two-former-osasuna-presidents-charged-with-corruption

 

GOOD PRACTICE

Norway

Norway’s Ministry of Culture has stepped up its efforts to combat match-fixing with the establishment of a dedicated unit that will be attached to the country’s Gaming Authority (Lotteritilsynet). The unit has been tasked with collecting relevant information and analysing evidence when suspicion arises that a sporting event has been manipulated. It will work alongside other national bodies including state-owned operator Norsk Tipping and the Norwegian Football Federation, as well as using the Gaming Authority’s expertise as it looks to carry out its duties.

Source: "Norway sets up dedicated unit to tackle match-fixing ", 4 March 2015, Gaming Intelligence, https://www.gamingintelligence.com/legal/30763-norway-sets-up-dedicated-unit-to-tackle-match-fixing

 

ODDS AND ENDS

Cyprus

Cypriot referee, Marios Panayi outlined corruption allegations that he says have besmirched Cypriot soccer and damaged the credibility of its referees. The referee told The Associated Press that some Cypriot referees are deciding the outcomes of games with incorrect calls ordered up by a senior Cyprus Football Association official who he said manipulates team standings to keep himself in power and to keep negotiating lucrative television rights deals.

Panayi said fixing matches to profit from betting is mainly confined to lower divisions by cash-strapped team owners or by players who have not been paid for months.

He claims Cypriot referees are groomed at an early age to accept match-fixing. "The problem is very deeply rooted and starts at the lowest divisions," Panayi says. "You can't wait until a referee reaches the top divisions to exert control over him, you groom him from the earliest stages."

Panayi said Cyprus referees who followed orders to fix games often receive indirect benefits like having their careers fast-tracked, earning promotions to officiate European soccer matches that pay three times more than domestic games, getting free lodging at top hotels or suddenly finding more customers for a relative's business.

Source: Menelaos Hadjicostis, "Cypriot Referee Blows Whistle on Alleged Match-Fixing", 3 March 2015, Associated Press, https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/cypriot-referee-blows-whistle-alleged-match-fixing-29348054?singlePage=true

Malta

The Premier Division Standing Committee (PDSC) position in the fight against match-fixing in Maltese football and a series of measures to be adopted were discussed in a meeting with Malta FA general secretary Bjorn Vassallo and Franz Tabone, the association’s Integrity Officer. In a statement, the PDSC said that during the meeting various aspects of the stance to be taken to counter the threat of match-fixing were thoroughly analysed. Club representatives also agreed to stay in unison and protect the game from those persons or organisations that are damaging the sport through their illicit actions. “We all agreed on the need to join forces and work on a combined strategy to rid the game of those with suspect actions,” the PDSC said.

The PDSC again reiterated their full backing to the Malta Football Association and the programme against match-fixing, urging the country’s authorities to support the association in the bid to free the sport from corrupt practices and criminal activities.

Source: "PDSC united in fight against match-fixing", 6 March 2015, Times of Malta, https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150306/football/PDSC-united-in-fight-against-match-fixing.558701

United Kingdom

Football mag Four Four Two spoke to 123 pro players from Britain’s five major leagues. All spoke anonymously, and made some startling revelations. According to the survey, one in three professional footballers say match fixing is rife. 14% admit they still gamble on the game. One said: “I know players who routinely bet on their own side.” But 32% agreed that rigging, especially spot-fixing, still goes on. A Scottish star said: “It’s too easy now to bet on the number of throw-ins or corners.” A Championship player added: “My friend got done for it at non-league level. No doubt it’s going on.
Players are banned by the FA from betting, directly or indirectly, on any football match, anywhere in the world.

Source: Paul Byrne, "One in three footballers admit match fixing is rife - and that they still bet on the game ", 8 March 2015, Daily Mirror, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/one-three-footballers-admit-match-5295650

 

SENTENCES/SANCTIONS

United Kingdom

A lifetime ban imposed by The Football Association (The FA) against British player Michael Boateng (from England) in relation to match manipulation has been extended by FIFA to have worldwide effect.

Michael Boateng admitted to charges laid against him by The FA for several breaches of The FA Rules, including accepting a bribe, gift, reward or other consideration which was, or appeared to be, related to seeking to influence the outcome or conduct of a match or competition. The player also admitted to the charge of failing to report the offer made to him. The charges relate to matches in the Conference South in the sixth tier of the English football league system in 2013. On 13 January 2015, the Regulatory Commission of The FA decided to sanction the player with a lifetime ban from taking part in any football-related activity. The player was informed of the decision and did not lodge an appeal, resulting in the decision becoming final and binding.

Source: "FIFA Extends Lifetime Ban Against British Player for Match-fixing", 3 March 2015, World Football Insider, https://www.worldfootballinsider.com/Story.aspx?id=37556

United Kingdom

The footballers' union has criticised the move by the Scottish Football Association's compliance officer to challenge what he perceives to be a lenient punishment for Steve Simonsen. An independent SFA panel banned the Rangers goalkeeper for two games for betting on 55 matches, but Tony McGlennan thinks this is not enough. PFA Scotland says it is "surprised and disappointed" by the officer's appeal. It has expressed concern that it could damage the career of Simonsen, 35. SFA disciplinary rule 33 prohibits players, coaches, club officials and referees in Scotland from betting on football anywhere in the world. Simonsen’s two-game ban included a one-match suspended ban until the end of the season. A PFA Scotland statement said Simonsen's reputation was "in danger of being further damaged, along with his future employment prospects". It said it was regrettable that the goalkeeper's request for the SFA to publish the "written reasons of the panel" had so far been declined.

Source: "PFA Scotland backs Steve Simonsen over SFA ban challenge", 3 March 2015, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/31719518

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