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Volume 10 No. 25

International Football

A "damning report" presented at the European Parliament on Tuesday said that more match-fixing took place in England "than anywhere else this season," according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. Eleven English games "were found to have fallen victim to betting fraud" by Federbet, an organization of top European casino owners and bookmakers which monitors suspicious gambling patterns. That "was more than was identified in any other country, providing a devastating blow to English football’s reputation for integrity." Federbet General Secretary Francesco Baranca warned that the problem was "so widespread that the World Cup itself was under threat from those who had already been corrupted." Baranca: “It is not so impossible that when they have learned to fix the match during the domestic competition they are also going to fix the match in the international competition. We can solve this problem in quite an easy way but nobody wants to solve it" (TELEGRAPH, 6/3). The AFP reported Federbet, which is based in Brussels, said that there were 110 matches that "they believed to be fixed in 2013-2014 in Europe, while there were suspicions about a further 350." The total of 460 possibly fixed matches "was up 20 percent from the previous year." They included matches in Britain, Italy, France and Greece, "as well as many eastern European countries." European lawmaker Marc Tarabella said, "Every day all around the world there is an attempt at match-fixing." Tarabella also "called for a response from sporting and political authorities alike." He said national football federations "often hesitate to back a complaint for fear that it might tarnish their competitions," and called for "harsher penalties" (AFP, 6/3).

The senior football official at the center of the 2022 Qatar World Cup corruption scandal "received millions of pounds in mystery payments while authorising cash and gifts" for a string of FIFA officials including President Sepp Blatter, according to Brown & Farmery of the LONDON TIMES. The payments "are disclosed in the report of a secret investigation" that was ordered by the Asian Football Confederation into the activities of "disgraced" former President Mohamed bin Hammam. Bin Hammam, who was also FIFA VP, has been accused of paying $5M in bribes to African football officials to secure the World Cup for Qatar in '22. The investigation report by the consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers "raises serious questions" about the payments unrelated to the 2022 World Cup bid. It highlights a $1B “commercial rights” deal between the AFC and World Sport Football Ltd. and "a broadcast contract signed with al-Jazeera." The report says that World Sport Football was awarded the rights for '13-20 "without the contract going to tender." PwC said that the contract "overstated WSF’s true costs" by an estimated £250M ($418M). It stated, “However, no direct evidence has been identified to confirm a link between the payments purportedly for the benefit of Mr bin Hammam and the awarding of the [rights agreement].” The investigation concluded, “Further work is warranted to determine if there is any relationship between the awarding of the contract to WSF and al-Jazeera and the significant payments made to Mr. bin Hammam” (LONDON TIMES, 6/4). The BBC reported Qatari officials were questioned by FIFA investigator Michael Garcia on Wednesday. The Qatari bid committee "vehemently" denied the claims and insisted Bin Hammam "never actively lobbied on its behalf." Qatar's bid committee said it was "co-operating with Garcia's inquiry." The committee added, "We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the integrity of Qatar's bid and our lawyers are looking into this matter" (BBC, 6/4).

QATAR REACTION: In London, Robert Booth reported the Qatari press has reported that the allegations "has focused strongly on the organisers' denials of any wrongdoing rather than the details of the claims themselves." On Monday, the Qatar Tribune led with "the robust rebuttal from the Qatar 2022 supreme committee, while it relegated the story to a three-inch column" reporting on how the AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain, "believed the doubts about the bidding process raised by the allegations 'will be cleared up soon.''' An unnamed Qatari sports official said, "People here feel frustrated. Why are people attacking us like this?" Another official said the claims in the Sunday Times were "ridiculous," "entirely predictable" and "nothing new." A Bangladeshi driver "plying his trade on the coastal Corniche road" summed up another strain of reaction to the bribery allegation, saying, "I am 99 percent sure it's true. What they are building here is a bubble and it is not real." When asked if he thought the bid was corrupt, he said, "Yes. On the outside they wear white, but on the inside they are black" (GUARDIAN, 6/3).

HELP ON THE WAY: In London, Pank, Dickinson & Farmery reported former FA Exec Dir David Davies "is working to help save" the World Cup. Davies flew into Doha on Saturday night. Davies, who describes himself as a freelance consultant, said, "I have a number of friends who are part of the bid and I meet with them and of course we talk about things that are to do with the World Cup. It is a very unofficial thing.'' Davies "refused to disclose which Qatari football officials he had met," but said that "he had not talked to" Bin Hammam for some years (LONDON TIMES, 6/4).

The Brazilian government "has spent" 1.9B reais ($800M) on security for the FIFA World Cup, according to Benjamin Parkin of the RIO TIMES. In total, 170,000 security personnel will be available, integrating state and federal police forces with 57,000 members of the armed forces. This is 20% "higher than the total" of 140,000 agents for South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, where approximately 500M reais was spent on security -- approximately a quarter of what has been spent by Brazil. Key to Brazil’s security project for the event "has been the integration of security institutions and systems," on which the government has spent 728M reais ($318M). This is exemplified by the Integrated Centers of Command and Control which have been built in all 12 host cities "to coordinate security operations." Some critics argue that, despite the CICCs, "too much spending has been focused on weaponry instead of better-placed investments in investigation and intelligence" (RIO TIMES, 6/3).

Football League clubs "are expected to give" FA Chair Greg Dyke's "controversial 'B league' proposals the thumbs down at their summer meeting in Portugal on Thursday," according to Martyn Ziegler of the PA. Dyke "has proposed a new division be created between the Conference and League Two which would include a number of Premier League clubs' B teams." Bradford City Chair Mark Lawn said there was a "general consensus" among the 72 Football League clubs that the B league "would not work." Lawn: "Nobody understands how playing at Conference or League One level can help any player make it to play for England." Blackburn Managing Dir Derek Shaw "echoed Lawn in claiming the current loan system works better than a B league would." Football League officials "are due to present an alternative proposal which would see some Premier League B teams play in an expanded Johnstone's Paint Trophy, which would include a group stage" (PA, 6/4).

Fake medical certificates for "hardcore" football fans in China who need an excuse for missing work during the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil "are now available" on Taobao, China's largest e-commerce website. They are selling from $1.60 up to $48. One seller told a reporter that a sick leave period of 15 days "is a piece of cake" if you pay $16. In addition to fake medical certificates, the seller "also offers fake examination reports and receipts" priced at $48 as long as the buyer faxes related information (WANT CHINA TIMES, 6/4). ... Pahang FA Cup finalists Felda United are now officially known as “The Fighters.” Felda Chair Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad said that the new name was to "keep up with the times." The old nickname, “The Settlers,” was "not appropriate for the football team anymore." He said, "For the last 58 years, we were known as ‘settlers’ ... but not anymore ... they now own lands" (THE STAR, 6/4).