The press made a fuss, radio made a fuss, TV made a fuss. The big deal was that as all good English people know, you can’t trust these foreigners. Not only do they fix matches in their own countries but they fix a game on English soil too. [Just in case you are not of English origin, let me explain - this is a parody of how the English behave. Johnny Foreigner, as he is called, does terrible things and behaves badly, while the English are the only ones who know that cheating and match fixing is wrong. One plays up and plays the game.]
So now we know. 380 games have been tampered with and most of them were in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany. Which is what we might expect. And the corruption is based in the Far East – nothing to do with us.
We know that because… well we know that. The fact that last season Untold Arsenal’s report on referees came up with figures that can only be understood in terms of either match fixing or gross incompetence. This season, to avoid the suggestion of bias towards Arsenal we are running reviews of many more matches on Referees Decisions. There is a link to the site at the foot of almost all the articles we run here.
And not only is that awkward fact ignored, so is the realisation that Qatar has been able to buy the World Cup and is now buying clubs as well. And the fact that our FA still consorts with the organisation that allowed this to happen. An organisation that does nothing to stop racism in football. Just like Uefa, to which the Premier League is allied.
But ok, let’s ignore that facts just as in history while we rightly commemorate and respect those who died at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground, we forget the politicians who allowed that ground to act season after season as a semi-final venue without proper safety checks. And we ignore the tragedy of Heysel in 1985 when 39 died and 600 were injured. And why we ignore the fact that Bradford City directors must have known that their stadium was a fire hazard? We often ignore the bits that don’t fit.
It is because we are selective in our history, as indeed most nations are.
But there are in fact three reasons why there might be any sort of doubt about football match results. One is indeed match fixing by gamblers. Another is the Italian model in which referees are provided with rewards for general favours, aided by the fact that the number of refs available is so low that it becomes more than likely that a particular referee will oversee a game in which a little help to a particular club might be useful. And the third is money laundering – in which whole clubs and individual players are bought, manipulated and sold (or allowed to die) just so that vast amounts of money can pass through the club unchecked in order for it to be exchanged for clean money.
In this last case there is a real oddity in that who wins the match and how well a player does, doesn’t matter. All that matters is that clubs and players are bought and sold at insane prices so that money can be cleaned. If you have doubts just go back and look at the whole series of articles that we ran on money laundering in our corruption series.
And just while we are at it, lets not forget the disgraceful way in which homophobia has been ignored by the police and clubs. Of course if you read this column regularly you will know how much I have written on this subject and I won’t bore you by covering the same events again.
Fortunately there are one or two journalists in this country who cannot stomach the “we’re all right it is just the foreigners” approach of most of the media. There are reports of late in a couple of papers of a senior exec in the betting industry in this country speaking anonymously to a few journalists and saying, “You only have to look at the extent of the betting action in the Far East to know the threat is always going to be there. When so much money – and we are talking billions here – can be made so quickly, who could be surprised by yesterday’s news [of match fixing]? …
“We know that in the past games have been fixed in England – and there is just no reason to believe that a serious threat has gone away. In fact, it is quite the opposite.”
Yes, there have been match fixing scandals in England, of course. At Arsenal there is one that we know very well, when Liverpool and Manchester United players joined together to fix a match at the end of the 1914/15 season. We know of it because in the shake out from that event Arsenal were elected to the first division in 1919 as the league was expanded. And then again in 1964 33 players were prosecuted in England for match fixing. One went to prison.
The game in England will not improve until there is open recognition that there is something strange going on with refereeing in the Premier League, and that there is every chance that there are many other games in England being fixed by gamblers, and that clubs in England are being manipulated for money laundering purposes (one only has to look at the demise of Portsmouth to realise something is wrong, and that is while we are awaiting the trial of the senior executive of Birmingham City). It is of course commonplace for fans of other clubs to say to us, “you are just bitter because you are Arsenal and you can’t win anything”. That plays into the media’s hands and ignores the mountain of evidence we have gathered, and all the articles we have written.
If we could be proven wrong, then fine, we would put these subjects to bed. But no one has done anything remotely like this, and the main hope of football seems to be that Untold and Referees Decisions will simply fade away.
Sadly for the authorities the more we uncover the more our audiences on these sites rise. And the more that happens, the more the little group of us involved in uncovering the nasty side of football is determined to push on.