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article imageOp-Ed: Soccer match-fixing scandal - Has the beautiful game gone ugly?

By Karl Gotthardt     Feb 5, 2013 in Sports
The Hague - European Police (Europol) announced on Monday that match fixing and corruption in professional soccer, worldwide, is more widespread than previously known and has spread into the upper echelons of the world's beautiful game.
Soccer, also known as Football in Europe, is the most popular game in the world. Known as the beautiful game, the announcement by Europol on Monday would indicate that the game has gone ugly. According to the police agency global match fixing has involved hundreds of games, spanning across all continents.
Soccer is played by 250 million people in over 200 countries. The most famous leagues are in Europe, including the Barclay's Premier League, La Liga in Spain, the Bundesliga in Germany, Serie A in Italy and Ligue 1 in France, attract the worlds best players, with an average salary of $1.85 million. Two of the most popular competitions are the World Cup tournament and the European Champions League.
Yahoo News reports that hundreds of matches have been fixed by a global betting scam operated from Singapore. An inquiry by EUROPOL revealed that it has identified 680 suspicious matches that include World Cup and European competitions, including the European Champions League.
About 680 suspicious matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides, were identified in an inquiry by European police forces, the European anti-crime agency Europol, and national prosecutors.
"According to our knowledge the Bundesliga and the second Bundesliga are not affected," DFL President Reinhard Rauball said.
"But those who know that the betting business has a turnover of not thousands or millions but billions can suspect that criminals will set up their business there and profit from it," he told reporters.
Europol Director, Rob Wainwright said
in a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands that the police agency has established that organized crime has reached to upper echelons of world football, even though the scheme is run from Asia.
“This is the first time we have established substantial evidence that organized crime is now operating in the world of football,” Europol director Rob Wainwright said at a news conference in The Hague.
While gambling and match-fixing linked to Asian betting syndicates and organized crime have vexed soccer for some years, the scope of the corruption outlined in Monday’s report was unprecedented, not just for soccer but for professional team sports.
Wainwright says that approximately 480 corrupt officials and players have been identified, in the Singapore betting scheme, which netted approximately $10.4 million in profits, after paying $2.5 million in bribes. 50 people have been arrested so far.
Investigators say the scam was backed by a Singapore-based betting cartel and had brought in at least 8 million euros ($10.4 million) in proven profits after paying almost $2.5 million in bribes.
German police described a global network involving couriers ferrying bribes around the world, paying off players and referees, with the biggest bribe being $180,000.
Accomplices would then place bets on the internet or by phone with bookmakers in Asia, where bets that would be illegal in Europe were accepted.
"One fixed match might involve up to 50 suspects in 10 countries on separate continents," Friedhelm Althans, chief investigator for police in the German city of Bochum, said.
"Even two World Championship qualification matches in Africa, and one in Central America, are under suspicion."
This current announcement by Europol will certainly tarnish the beautiful game, however is not the first time that it has occurred. Many of the professional leagues have been implicated before, with officials and clubs punished, including removal of their professional license and removal from professional competitions.
The game fills stadiums weekend after weekend in Europe and South America with loyal followers. Suspicious minds and the European law enforcement agency have discovered what may often have been seen as questionable calls and suspicious plays on the pitch. Fans deserve more and the beautiful game needs to clean up its act.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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