PtG Article 01.12.2009

Taiwan's president vows to clean up match-fixing in baseball

In Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou has put his whole administration behind an effort to clean up match-fixing in the country's professional baseball league. Taiwan News reports that Vice President Eric Liluan Chu will head up a special baseball task force, and the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Administration have been asked to help teams set up anti-corruption units.

In October this year, prosecutors began investigations into alleged match-fixing in Taiwan's professional baseball league. According to Taiwan News, prosecutors have detained six members of a match-fixing ring, and investigators have found out that the ring paid players with money and sex to lose games.

The professional baseball league in Taiwan is small and consists of only four teams after another team was banned over match fixing allegations last year. In other countries match-fixing on this  scale might not warrant government intervention, but in Taiwan it is difficult to overemphasize the importance of baseball to national identity.Baseball restored national prideBaseball was introduced to Taiwan in the early 20th Century by Japanese colonisers and was firmly established by the time Japan left Taiwan in 1945 and the Chinese took over. But the real importance of baseball to national identity in Taiwan came after 1971 when Taiwan was forced to hand over its seat in the United Nations to China.At the time, baseball teams from Taiwan took part in the Little League World Series, a world tournament for players aged five to 18 years organised by a US-based organisation, and in the period from 1971 to 1980 Taiwan won the tournament eight times."In the years right afterwards, baseball helped restore national pride. When Taiwan won the Little League, it meant enormous national confidence," Yu Chun-wei, a baseball expert at the National Taiwan Sport University explains to AFP.2010 will be the recovery yearSince the latest match-fixing scandal broke, President Ma Ying-jeou has vowed on several occasions to create an environment for baseball players that will be free from match-fixing.On 1 December, he spoke at a meeting for all stakeholders in Taiwanese baseball and promised that "2010 will the recovery year one for Taiwan baseball."The new special baseball task force has been given a month to gather opinions from the baseball teams, fans, and the Sports Affairs Council and turn them into concrete suggestions. Each relevant government department is also expected to come up with a baseball recovery plan of its own.Currently suggestions to clean up match-fixing include setting up anti-corruption units for all teams, higher pay to baseball players to reduce the lure of corruption, and a free-agent system and an arbitration body.According to Taiwan News, the cabinet will "take a generous attitude to the possible impact on the budget" from implementing the new ideas. It is also prepared to consider new legislation.