It is the time for the fixes

Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg. Photo (c) by the Local Organising Committee/MediaClubSouthAfrica


Comment by Declan Hill
Declan Hill comments on FIFA's promises to fight down match-fixing in this year's World Cup and remarks on possible match-fixing activities in the vulnerable last matches of the group-stage games.

Here is what I know.

The fixers are in South Africa. They have been desperately trying to contact various teams. They have various runners and old contacts coming in and out of the hotels and training camps. They are trying ‘to do the business’ with various players and administrators.

Here too is what I know.

FIFA has put out lots of press statements and solemn talk about seriously vetting up-coming games. This is almost utter tosh. FIFA’s system of checking for fixed matches is practically useless. They repeatedly talk about their network of 400 bookmakers passing them information. Many of these bookmakers are not effective sources of information. They either do not know anything or will not say anything or will try to downplay any suspicious activity at the best of times. This is not the best of times. The gambling market on the World Cup is huge. FIFA and the bookmakers cannot monitor any suspicious activity as there is not suspicious activity to monitor. You cannot detect any patterns if the amount of money is too large.

FIFA also speaks of a liaison with Interpol. Interpol is pretty useless. Good for collecting official information and putting it in nicely-bound reports. Good for staging press conferences and saying polite pleasantries about the need to win the war on drugs, crack down on corruption, fight match-fixing etc, etc. But Interpol is almost useless for mounting a successful criminal investigation or preventing criminals from working on the ground. Their very mandate prevents them from doing anything effective.

Given these circumstances which matches should we red-flag for possible corruption?

  1. Games where one team has nothing to play for. Even if they win the teams will not progress to the next stage of the competition.

  2. Teams which have a history of not paying their players properly. It is the phenomenon of relative exploitation which drives fixing. The officials receive lots of money, the players comparatively little.

The games I will be watching closely are Cameroon vs. the Netherlands and Honduras vs. Switzerland. In no way do I want to suggest that I have heard anything about players on these teams being open to fixing matches. In no way do I want to suggest that even if they had been approached the players would have taken money. But I do want to say that if either of these teams loses by more than the Asian ‘spread’ of goals (2 goals and above) then FIFA should bring in their toothless tigers of investigators and begin to ask questions.

This comment was also published on Declan Hill's blog on 23 June 2010



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