A 19-month, global investigation into Asian betting syndicates has revealed 680 soccer matches, professional and international, where the results are believed to be “suspect” and the result of match-fixing. Conspiracies involved at least 425 individuals in 15 countries. Most matches were low level, though the tally includes World Cup and European qualifiers, as well as two Champions League matches. According to the New York Times, many of the matches were traced to a single gang led by a Singapore man “known as Dan Tan.”
Few specifics were revealed, though it was mentioned one of the two Champions League matches was played in England. We would bet this is in reference to Liverpool’s 8-0 home win over Besiktas in 2007, which had already been under investigation.
The matches are chosen to be low key affairs, where attention is lax and where players and referees may be cheaper to bribe. One league that could fit that profile in the future is MLS. According to journalist Declan Hill, gamblers have already made overtures.
Declan Hill, a Canadian journalist and the author of “The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime,” has been tracking the issue of match-fixing for years. In an interview he cautioned that North American fans of the game should not assume match-fixing is only a problem overseas. There have been instances of match-fixing in a lower-level league in Canada, and Hill said his reporting indicated that several players in Major League Soccer were approached by gamblers in recent years.
According to Hill, there have been no instances of fixed games in the M.L.S., although there have been reported incidents in the Concacaf Champions League, a regional tournament in which M.L.S. teams participate.
There have also been instances of M.L.S. players giving gamblers information that could affect a game’s outcome, like an unreported injury to a key player, Hill said.
The takeaway? Soccer is corrupt and rife with shady characters. Given the nature of the sport’s leadership that should surprise no one. Why would FIFA address gambling syndicates seriously when it can build a $198 million underground museum?
[Photo via Getty]