FK Pobeda and the future of sport

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.

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3 Responses to “FK Pobeda and the future of sport”

  1. Ian says:

    Declan, an excellent blog. I have always wondered about the extent of match fixing in European soccer.

    Do you feel that match fixing can touch the ‘high end’ level of European football? The Premier League, or Serie A for example? Or do you feel that the high wages (and maybe intense media scrutiny) in those leagues makes it hard for match fixers to find a way in?

    I’ve often wondered about whether the ‘big’ matches could be thrown, but I’ve recently wondered if there is a greater comparison with cricket match fixing, where it is not match results that were often fixed, but elements within the match. For example, a certain player agrees to get sent off, or a goal is scored in a specific timeframe. Is this type of fixing more common/likely in your opinion than the fixing the overall result as such? After all, individuals can be bribed, teams cannot be done so quite as easily.

    If you would rather email me than post here that is fine with me!


  2. Art says:

    Yesterday’s match – Chelsea – Barca – was sold! Mr Hill – Please publish a blog entry about it!

    An international investigation about UEFA’s involvment and intentions, and about the referee Tom Henning Ovrebo must be held by INTERPOL. The investigation must be as thourough as possible:
    Fisrt of all the referee himself, UEFA officials in the referee section who sent this man to the pitch, UEFA directors and even sponsors: Hineken, Ford, Vodafone, Sony.

    Second of all – the players involved – from Barca, which seemed as if they knew – whatever they would do – a penalty will not be declared: the handplayers: Gerard Pique, Samuel Eto’o, the shirt holder Eric Abidal and the pusher: Dani Alves.

    Third of all – the chelsea players, which of course looked angry, but also had a part in the show: the goalkeeper Petr Czech and even Michael Balack for not defending Iniesta from a closer range.

    Please make sure this gets taken care of.

  3. Bill says:

    Just finished your excellent book. What I don’t understand is why there isn’t more publicity about this problem. Maybe there is in Europe where soccer is the #1 sport. But here in the US, there’s nothing on this. I just stumbled onto the book by accident.

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