British authorities are uncovering more and more evidence of potential match fixing in English football. The latest arrests stem from alleged match-fixing in the Championship, England’s second tier league. Just days ago many pundits were dismissing the previous round of arrests around match-fixing to be” isolated” and “simply in the semi-professional ranks.” Monday’s arrests should erase any doubt that English football has a potential problem that must be eradicated.
With the money flowing into the game, it is easy for the carefully crafted public image the Premier League, Football League and FA have created to want to avoid discussion of this topic. However merely sticking ones heads in the sand will only exacerbate the problem and the potential long-term consequences. Asian syndicates and gambling money have grown larger and larger in recent years, leading to repeated allegations of match-fixing in all corners of the globe. England is not immune from this spreading cancer as recent events have reminded us. Only strong and decisive leadership by the top brass of English football can save the sport from potential undermining of the integrity of the game and embarrassment down the road.
The temptation to work with fixers has always existed. Denial of these potential problems or simply acting as if they are isolated incidents will eventually bring English football into disrepute. The FA has yet to show any real public willingness to take on this issue and large segments of the press that are connected to the sport have either marginalized or avoided the topic outright.
As I discussed last month with Declan Hill, simple actions such as an innocuous early booking could be setup by fixers. In his research, Hill finds that the majority of match-fixing is done by veteran players not young players potentially needing money as was previously assumed. The allegations against the likes of DJ Campbell and Delroy Facey fit this pattern.
Following the allegations and arrests connected with Facey, Hill called upon the FA to take serious action. His thoughts are below.
“Declare an amnesty for all players, coaches, referees and officials involved in fixing. Clean out the sport properly. This means that the British game will only have to endure one massive scandal that occurs at one time. After this the game can recover. Allow the problem of fixing to fester and the credibility of British football will be killed by a steady drip-drip of scandals.
The amnesty would work in the following way:
i) It is time-limited. 90 days. No extensions. If people do not turn themselves in that time they will receive life-bans from the game. No exceptions.
ii) It must be anonymous. Players who know about fixing and corruption will be afraid to report it openly, as this would break the ‘code of the dressing room’. Give them an anonymous, non-transferable number when they come forward.
iii) People who come forward and report fixing get to keep their money and the money of anyone whom they report. This will raise the levels of distrust among the corrupt players so high that they will come flooding in like rats from a sinking ship.
iv) It should be started immediately and run until mid-February.
v) Budget approximately £250,000. Relatively small change for the English Football Association.
vi) I have a roster of Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard and other UK Law Enforcement types who cut off their left hand to help protect British football. Hire one of them to run the program. You need expertise that the average sports official simply does not have.
Hill knows better than I what motivates fixers and how to eliminate it from the English game. But one thing I do strongly feel is that we are just scratching the surface with these recent arrests. With as much money generated by gambling that happens around English football, it is not a great leap of faith to believe match-fixing is more extensive and more regular than we would like to believe.
Without faith in the integrity of our sporting institutions, the game itself hardly matters. The FA must take strong and decisive action to clean up English football. The first part of doing that is acknowledging the problem exists and then working towards solving it in concert with law enforcement and experts in the subject like Hill.