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Volume 6 No. 217

International Football

A Champions League match in England that was "believed to be corrupt" has been identified as a 1-0 Liverpool win over Hungarian side Debrecen in the '09 Champions League group stage, according to Paul Kelso of the London TELEGRAPH. The report in Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet said that Europol sources had "confirmed that the match between Debrecen and Liverpool was the one involved." The newspaper claimed that the game had "already been highlighted in a Dutch book about match-fixing." It stressed that Liverpool was "not under suspicion." The report claimed that fixers "wanted to rig the betting market for total goals in the match, but failed." The newspaper claimed that fixers "wanted to ensure there were at least three goals in the match," and that according to court papers they "texted each other to express frustration at Liverpool’s failure to score more" (TELEGRAPH, 2/4).

LIVERPOOL REACTS: The PA's Martyn Ziegler reported Liverpool said that it has "had no contact from Europol or any other body" in connection with the allegations. A Liverpool spokesperson said, "We have had no contact from Europol or any other organization over this." FIFA Head of Security Ralf Mutschke has "called for tougher prison sentences for match-fixing." Mutschke said that football "could ban perpetrators for life" -- but that the courts "need to crack down harder" (PA, 2/5). In London, Ashling O'Connor reported "there is no suggestion that anybody at Liverpool, including players or club officials, were involved in any wrongdoing." The reaction to reports that a game in England was fixed "was sceptical." The FA said, "The FA are not aware of any credible reports into suspicious Champions League fixtures in England, nor has any information been shared with us." Former policeman Paul Scotney, who led the British Horseracing Authority’s integrity unit for nine years, said he would be “very surprised” if it involved anyone from an English team. Scotney said, "We are very robust here. It's more likely the visiting team or match officials" (LONDON TIMES, 2/5). Also in London, Martin Lipton reported the identification of the game "lifted the shadow of suspicion that had hung over the other five Premier League teams" who had played in the Champions League since '09 (DAILY MIRROR, 2/5).

HUNGARY ALLEGATION: In London, Robin Scott-Elliot noted the report claims the Hungarian side's goalkeeper, Vukasin Poleksic, of Montenegro, was bribed "to ensure the match ended with at least three goals." Poleksic was "again the recipient of an alleged bribe for a match against Fiorentina later in the group stage." That match "has been the focus of a previous investigation by German authorities." In June '10 Poleksic was banned for two years for failing to report an approach by match fixers (INDEPENDENT, 2/5).

Singapore’s "squeaky-clean image as one of the world’s least corrupt nations took a hit" after revelations that criminals based in the city-state rigged hundreds of football matches in Europe and elsewhere, according to the AFP. While police gave no immediate comment and the country’s pro-government media "downplayed the news," some Singaporeans "expressed shock, and analysts warned the scandal could harm the wealthy island’s image." Singapore’s role in int'l match-rigging "has long been clear." The latest announcement "uncovered the huge scale of the activities, and raised potential problems for Singapore’s reputation." U.S.-based consultancy Galaviz & Co. Managing Dir Jonathan Galaviz said, "Singapore’s public policy makers need to reassess whether they have enough resources dedicated to monitoring and enforcing laws relating to illegal gambling and sports corruption in the country." The FA of Singapore said it takes “a serious view of allegations pertaining to match-fixing and football corruption” and vowed to “spare no effort” to crack down on any such activities. Singapore's New Paper investigative reporter Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, who is "considered a leading authority on match-fixing," admitted that he was "taken aback by the numbers revealed by Europol." He said, "This number to me it’s huge, 680" (AFP, 2/5).

GERMANY NOT AFFECTED: REUTERS' Karolos Grohmann reported Germany's top two Bundesliga divisions are "seemingly not affected by a global match-fixing scandal" that has involved hundreds of games across several continents. Hundreds of football matches have been fixed in a global betting scam run from Singapore. German Football League (DFL) President Reinhard Rauball said, "According to our knowledge the Bundesliga and the second Bundesliga are not affected. But those who know that the betting business has a turnover of not thousands or millions but billions can suspect that criminals will set up their business there and profit from it. What is important for us is that the authorities pursue this matter intensively" (REUTERS, 2/5). REUTERS' Mark Gleeson also reported Burkina Faso national team coach Paul Put, whose own career was "blighted by his involvement in a match-fixing scandal" in Belgium in '05, said that the problem "has always existed" and "little can be done." Gleeson, "Match-fixing has always existed in football. If you look in cycling, at Lance Armstrong, it's always him who is pointed at but everybody was taking drugs. When I played football I saw a lot of things. I don't think you can change it. It's unfortunate, but I think in every sport you have to face those things" (REUTERS, 2/5).

SPAIN NOT SUPRISED: In Madrid, J. L. Ruiz reported Spanish Professional Football League (LFP) VP Javier Tebas said that “he was not surprised” by the corruption scandal unveiled by Europol. Tebas said, “Here [Spain] the illness is not admitted, so you cannot cure the patient. There are institutions which are not aware of what goes on. There is matchfixing and illegal betting. It’s in a small percentage, but corruption does also exist in Spain” (MARCA, 2/5).

BETTING FIRMS LESS AT RISK: REUTERS' Palmer & Weir reported a rigorous integrity system, clear audit trails and information sharing with sports federations mean European betting firms are "less at risk than Asian counterparts from gamblers hoping to profit from match-fixing." Britain's two biggest bookmakers, William Hill and Ladbrokes, are members of the European Sports Security Association. The organization was established in '05 by leading European betting operators to "detect and report suspicious betting patterns in sport." ESSA Chair Mike O'Kane, of Ladbrokes, said a whole series of triggers "hopefully keeps the bad people out of the licensed operators." O'Kane said that Asian betting operators "were more vulnerable" because the large volume of betting across that continent made it harder to spot fixing. London-based Betfair has signed a Memoranda of Understanding with the governing bodies of 56 sports, including FIFA and UEFA, and will "pass on names, betting details and how accounts are funded when suspicions are raised" (REUTERS, 2/5).

STAGGERING NUMBERS: In London, James Lawton opined, "Reality, cold and classical, came calling on English football." If it is the perception, "rightly or wrongly, that the desert enclave of Qatar has been able to buy football's greatest tournament, how much more shocking is it to purchase a single match?" Or even 380 of them, which is the charge against "the betting moguls of the East who are said to deal in billions each week?" It is "surely time for English football to fight for its good name more vigorously than ever before -- and such a requirement was only redoubled by the extent of the stain that spread across the game" Monday. The lone match involving an English club "is still under investigation." However, if there is "no reason to believe in the worst implications from the home perspective, there is plenty of cause to hope that even a brush with potential catastrophe is enough to signal new levels of vigilance" (INDEPENDENT, 2/4).

ASIAN BETTING MARKET: Eurosport's Paul Parker wrote, "I can't say I was surprised." In many ways, Singapore is "a great place to live." However, "I'm afraid the gambling culture is a massive problem." For many, football is a bit like horse racing in the U.K. -- it is "just a vehicle for betting." People in Singapore "love to wager" -- they favor "handicap betting where one team gets a head start." It is "absolutely huge." And unfortunately in Singapore, and throughout Southeast Asia, there is "not a lot of integrity in the gambling world" (EUROSPORT, 2/5). In London, Ed Hawkins opined, "So how do you fix a football match?" Investigators believe that worldwide fixing yields $90B annually, and that "financial muscle and malevolence to cajole or threaten players are prerequisites." Mafia, which has "plenty of both, step in and demand players manipulate the result or the number of goals scored." The Asian betting market is "dominated by two options: the Asian handicap and goals scored." The Asian handicap is "betting without the draw but with the favourite giving a headstart of a quarter of a goal or more to the opposition" (LONDON TIMES, 2/5).

ManU announced on Tuesday that it will visit Japan as part of its preseason tour of Asia, "giving a chance for Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa to dazzle his home fans," according to the AFP. ManU will play J.League side Yokohama F. Marinos on July 23 "in its first game on Japanese turf for five years." Kagawa, "one of the star names in the Japanese national side," signed with ManU last year "in a big-money move from Borussia Dortmund and is keenly followed by Japan's media." Japan is the third stop announced on ManU's preseason tour, "aimed at cashing in on the club's legions of fans across Asia." The Red Devils will play in Australia on July 20 and in Hong Kong on July 29 (AFP, 2/5).