The time has been short, the list of cases long.
Bulgaria, China (badminton), Denmark (handball), Denmark (football), England, Germany (football), Germany (handball), Holland, Hong Kong, Malta, Malaysia, Monaco (tennis), Poland, Italy, Romania, Russia, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan (baseball), and now, Macedonia.
Seven months, nineteen countries, five sports. This is a list of suspected scandals involving match-fixing in sport since the publication of ‘The Fix’. To be fair, a number of these cases have not been fully investigated. There have been some sensational headlines, a brief announcement, then the police or sporting authorities have claimed ‘there is not enough evidence to investigate them.’ Which begs the question, how do you know there is not enough evidence if you don’t investigate?
But today, there is a ray of hope. UEFA has announced an eight-year ban on the Macedonian football club, FK Pobeda.
It is a good start.
However, there are a couple of things for football fans to watch.
One, the Macedonian club gets to appeal the sentence and if it follows the typical Italian sentencing of corruption in football, we will see these sentences much reduced. They should not be. There is an old story about the law. The convict is sentenced to death for stealing a horse. He appeals to the judge, “Come on, your Lordship, I just stole a horse!” The judge replies, “I am not hanging you for stealing a horse. I am hanging you to stop other people from stealing horses.”
This is one of those cases where the sentence is not just about punishing the crime, it is about giving a clear, definite signal that match-fixing will not be tolerated at any level.
Two, that there is corruption in the Macedonian league comes as no surprise to anyone. Now will UEFA have the nerve to go after bigger clubs in bigger leagues?
Three, will UEFA establish a few, very basic, defences to the sport?
Here is one example. For those non-fans of Danish and German handball, the cases there involve referees being approached to fix games. In Germany, the referees discovered 50,000 Euro had been put in their luggage, only when going through airport security.
They bring up a question relevant to football. What does a referee do in a case like this? If someone approaches them to bribe a game, who do they go to? The local football association? They are often in on the fix. UEFA? Hmmmmmm…
The problem with UEFA is that it is a house with many rooms in it. Many of those rooms have very honest, decent people in them. But some of those rooms contain people that no referee would ever want to report a bribe attempt to. So their new security department should be established absolutely independently of the UEFA hierarchy. It should report directly to Platini and no one else. Anything else, and despite the Macedonian verdict, football will be back to corruption and the list of suspected cases will keep growing.