UEFA has confirmed that it plans to investigate 40 cases of suspected match-fixing in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. Most of the cases were from Eastern Europe and involved games in the early qualifying rounds of the tournaments, according to Peter Limacher, UEFA’s head of disciplinary services.
Last year, the number of games being investigated was 25, and UEFA set up a six-man special investigation unit to examine corruption in their competitions.
There are now 40 games where suspicious betting patterns have been identified, 15 of those in the last two years. UEFA has been running its Betting Fraud Detection System (BFDS) since the start of the current season in order to catch suspicious betting patterns earlier than in the past. The Betting Fraud Detection System (BFDS) is an elaborate database application that can quickly compile a report if a match is considered to be manipulated. The BFDS report forms the first step of the thorough investigation phase that follows.
Match-fixing on this scale is largely driven by attempts to make a quick dollar from the multi-billion dollar sports betting industry. In many of the cases now before UEFA, it is reported that bookmakers alerted UEFA to suspicious betting patterns, and it is thought that most of the cases involved sides where players did not earn high wages, and so were tempted by a large pay-off. There are not believed to be either English sides, or any major European clubs involved.
What sort of punishment could be meted out to clubs involved? In April of this year, UEFA banned Macedonian club FK Pobeda from European competitions for eight years after match-fixing against Armenian side FC Pyunik in 2004.