It has been one of those weeks for football.
It began well.
Over last weekend, the boffins at UEFA announced that they were setting up their own security branch to help police the game. This is a reform that I have called for in the book and in all my subsequent media interviews. The idea is simple, it is what all North American sports bodies have: a department of former high-ranking police officers who have the capabilities, the connections and the cojones to make sure the game is safe. Nothing against football administrators, but at their best that is what they are good at – administering football. However, they simply do not have the experience to deal with the criminal thugs who are entering the game in increasing numbers. So a well-staffed, well-resourced security department is an excellent initiative.
I think that my book and all the controversy around it was a significant tipping point in getting the UEFA officials to set up a security body. Certainly, that is what I was told by some of my sources at UEFA, but frankly, I am simply so happy to see some positive changes in protecting the sport that I don’t care.
I am not sure what UEFA’s new security department will look like. I hope that is well-staffed and well-resourced. We will see. But at least it is a beginning that indicates that UEFA knows they have a problem of well-organized match-fixing on their hands. It is a complete contrast with the attitude of UEFA’s rival organization FIFA – whose response to any threats from gambling fixers has been to bury their collective head in the sand.
Then the bad news came. Early Wednesday morning we heard about the alleged Zenit St. Petersburg case. Essentially, a Spanish judicial investigation led by Baltasar Garzon, the prosecutor who indicted Pinochet in the UK, discovered the Godfather of the St. Petersburg Tambovskaya Mafia and his second-in-command boasting about fixing the Semi-Final and Final of the 2008 UEFA Cup for 40 million Euro.
What to make of it?
This is an investigation led by Garzon, not a man to do shoddy work. He has the mobsters “live” - talking on the phone to associates. This type of evidence is often the best form possible (one of the reasons, mob-associated lawyers fought for so long to keep it out of U.S. and Canadian courts). However, until the tapes are released we do not know if the Godfather and his associates were simply boasting or actually providing firm details of any possible fix.
What should be done?
An immediate investigation by the Munich and Glasgow police should be established to aid Garzon. This is a very, very important case and it should not be allowed to go away because the police will not support it.