Rabu, 06 Februari 2013

Match-fixing: How criminal gangs cash in on football

Europol Press Conference
By Stefan Coerts from The Hague

Fans, journalists, players and coaches across the world often refer to football as "the beautiful game" when they discuss the sport they so dearly love.

However, football is encountering more and more difficulties to live up to its fabled reputation as the latest scandal rocked the game on Monday.

The European Police Office revealed at a press conference in The Hague that a major investigation involving police teams from 13 European countries has uncovered an extensive criminal network involved in match-fixing. A total of 425 match officials, club officials, players and serious criminals from over 15 countries are suspected of being involved in attempts to fix more than 380 professional football matches.

Worryingly, among the suspicious games in this case are World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, Champions League clashes, and several top-flight game s across Europe, thus underlining the significance of the problem. Match-fixing happens anywhere, investigators claimed, from the lower-profile leagues right to the very top of the game.

The main betting syndicate believed to be behind the scandal has primarily been betting on the Asian market, but its tentacles are spread across Europe and links were found to Russian-speaking and other European crime organisations.

Hungarian investigator Bajan Nemeth explained how the head of the Singapore-based syndicate has a number of people below him who are tasked with organising the bribing of match officials, club officials and players.

"The Hungarian syndicate member, who was one of five men immediately below the ringleader, was in direct touch with referees who could attempt to influence the result in games where they were in charge all across the globe. Accomplices would then place place bets online or by phone with bookmakers in Asia," Nemeth said .

More than 2 million in corrupt payments were claimed to have been made by those involved in rigging the 380 games, with the biggest payment made to an individual being a sum of 140,000.

A costly investment? Not so much. Profits gained from match-fixing can be as high as 700,000, a sum alleged to have been made by the gambling syndicate on an Austrian game back in 2009.

Scandal German referees raised concerns over Robert Hoyzer's integrity in 2005

Another popular, and slightly more advanced scheme, is where the crime syndicate uses seemingly legitimate companies to arrange international friendlies for often cash-strapped national football associations, offering a fee in exchange for the right to organise friendly matches. With many international friendlie s taking place without Fifa sanctioning, the front company is in charge of picking a referee, giving themselves the chance to appoint a corrupt official.

"Every member association is responsible for organising and supervising football in its country," Fifa spokesman Wolfgang Resch told ESPN last year. "The control of referees and officials falls into it."

The adage "anything can happen in football" suddenly has a completely different meaning. One of the most unpredictable sports in the world? Not for the people in charge of certain criminal organisations.

The Europol probe follows on from a string of match-fixing controversies since the 2005 Bundesliga scandal, as countries such as Turkey, Greece,Zimbabwe, South Africa and South Korea have all been rocked by comparable scandals. The 2006 Calciopoli scandal, although unrelated to gambling syndicates, which saw Juventus relegated, and the likes of AC Milan, Lazio, and lat er Inter, implicated involved the influencing of refereeing designations. Another betting controversy erupted in Italy in 2011, while Javier Tebas, vice-president of La Liga, stated in January that a number of games in Spain had been rigged in recent years.

Can match-fixing be stopped, though? Europol's investigation surely seems to suggest it is a battle that can be won if fought with the right weapons.

Nevertheless, Europol director Rob Wainwright's fears that the recent findings are just "the tip of the iceberg", are an indication that a long and tough fight could be on the cards.

For now, football's reputation has taken a serious hit, and Fifa, Uefa and every other football association should heed the warnings found in the Europol case.

Selasa, 05 Februari 2013

Matthaus shocked at match-fixing revelations

Lothar Matthäus
Germany legend Lothar Matthaus has admitted that he was shocked to hear revelations that 380 matches in recent years are under suspicion of match-fixing.

The 150-cap former international believes that such activities denigrate the name of the sport which he loves.

"Football is played around the world, and there is always some black sheep trying to take advantage of this beautiful sport illegally," he told Sky Germany.

"I have never been involved with such things because I have always believed in the positive side of football. But you can see what is happening all around the world of football."

A profit of around 8 million was allegedly made by the betting syndicate, which is believed to be based in Asia.

Injury rules Song out of Cameroon game

Alex Song profile pic
Barcelona midfielder Alex Song has been ruled out of Cameroon's friendly with Tanzania on Wednesday with a knee injury.

The 25-year-old former Arsenal player had been due to take part in the game in Dar es Salaam but he will now not travel.

Song has felt a twinge in his left knee and as a precaution, he will not be travelling with the Cameroon squad," said a statement on Barca's website, fcbarcelona.com.

Song has won 36 caps for Cameroon, but is yet to score for his country having made his debut in 2005. He was recently voted the worst La Liga signing of the season so far by readers of Spanish magazine Marca, along with Luka Modric.

The injury blow follows news that Cameroon will also be without striker Samuel Eto'o, who is struggling with a back problem.

Cameroon have endured a disappointing 12 months, culminating in their fai lure to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is currently taking place in South Africa.

Senin, 04 Februari 2013

Karpin 'unaware' of alleged doping at Real Sociedad

RPL: Valeriy Karpin - Spartak
Former Real Sociedad midfielder Valeri Karpin says he was "unaware" of doping at the club despite claims by former a president, Inaki Badiola, that it existed.

Badiola, whose reign lasted from January 2008 to the following December, claimed on Monday his former club had been purchasing illegal substances for a six-year period from 2001 until 2007.

However, former Sociedad player Karpin, who was at the Basque outfit between 2002 and 2005, has refuted the claims.

I cannot answer anything on that. Im not aware of whether the team used doping or not, commented the current Spartak Moscow coach.

Do I believe the club doctors supplied banned substances to the players? No.

It was time for a change, says Willian

Anzhi Makhachkala winger Willian says it was "time for a change", after completing a move from Shakhtar Donetsk in January.

The Brazil international moved to Russia for a reported 35 million fee and signed a contract until 2017 with Guus Hiddink's side, and although many believes the switch was financially motivated, he insists that was not the case.

"I've earned quite a lot of money in Donetsk," the 24-year-old told Sport Express.

"With Shakhtar I also won a set of titles not only in Ukraine but in Europe also. I felt comfortable there. But the time for change has come."

The Corinthians winger also revealed that conversations with the club's owners over their long-term ambitions helped to sway his decision.

"My conversation with Anzhi owner Suleiman Kerimov decided everything," Willian said.

"After that I decided to join Anzhi. The club management are not only thinking about short-term gains, th ey really want to create a serious football infrastructure in Dagestan, to lift the game in the republic to a higher level."

Willian appeared 140 times for his former club Shakhtar, scoring 20 goals in total.

Minggu, 03 Februari 2013

Willian completes 35 million Anzhi Makhachkala move

Willian - Shakhtar
Anzhi Makhachkala have announced on their official website that they have completed the transfer of Willian from Shakhtar Donetsk for 35 million. The Brazil international has signed a contract until December 2017 with the Russian side.

Anzhi coach Guus Hiddink was keen to add some fresh blood to his squad as the Dagestan outfit are gunning for the domestic title, and he had earmarked Willian as the perfect addition.

Shakhtar were keen to hold on to the attacking midfielder, but had no other option but to accept Anzhi's offer as they triggered the 24-year-old's release clause.

"There is a club willing to pay the release clause in his contract, and Willian agreed to move. There is nothing I can do," commented Shakhtar boss Mircea Lucescu earlier this week.

Willian will join Anzhi at their training camp in Marbella on Saturday, but will have to wait for his official debut until the Russian league resumes after the winter break.

Anzhi currently sit second in the table with 41 points from 19 games, trailing leaders CSKA Moscow by two points.

M'Vila France ban reduced by four months

Yann M'Vila
Rubin Kazan midfielder Yann M'Vila can dream of featuring at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil again after his France ban was reduced by four months on appeal.

The former Stade Rennais star was initially banned until June 30, 2014, but he will now be available for the national team again from March 1, 2014 after successfully appealing his punishment.

"Yann M'Vila's suspension from all national teams from Nov. 12, 2012 until June 30, 2014, with a suspended period from March 1 to June 30, 2014, is now confirmed," the French football federation (FFF) said in an official statement.

M'Vila was one of five France Under-21 players who were handed bans by FFF after visiting a nightclub ahead of the decisive European Championship qualifier against Norway last year.

The 22-year-old had previously received a warning for his behaviour at Euro 2012.