English Football is currently reeling from the impacts of the Stevens inquiry into the bung culture, the standard and ethics of referees and the revelation that Victor Chandler International allegedly took bets from some Premiership Managers and Players. The words “tip” and “iceberg” spring to mind.
I have traded professionally on global
football betting markets for the past 15 years. In my experience, all
the brokers, market makers and bookmakers that I have traded with take
bets from insiders in the game. It is regarded as buying information.
Undoubtedly, some of this exchange of information borders on the
corrupt. The recent betting scandal in Germany and the uproar in Italy’s
Serie A show that this isn’t merely a British problem.
Market Makers regularly accept bets of greater than £1million without
blinking (Gianluigi Buffon – the Juventus goalkeeper – was found with
betting slips for several million euros in his possession during the
Moggiopoli scandal). Inevitably, the liquidity of the Asian markets
persuades some football people to enhance their earning capacities. To
my knowledge, such individuals include players, managers, referees,
bookmakers, agents and the criminal fringe. It isn’t just the Italian
mafia centres of Napoli, Palermo and Reggio di Calabria that are
actively involved in football markets!
To date, all attempts to
clean up the game have been peripheral. In Germany, some selective
sweeping under the carpet and wrist slapping went on in response to the
referee Robert Hoyzer admitting that he took money to alter football
match outcomes. But, I believe that there are other match officials in
the Bundesliga who were merely demoted or, indeed, allowed to continue
to officiate. In Italy, in the aftermath of calciocaos, two referees
were suspended but the other six that were under investigation are still
involved in Serie A.
Although there are many corrupt players, it
is the match officials who are the key component of this crisis. Some
have links to individual clubs, some to bookmakers and some to the
underworld. There are also many honest people in the game who are just
trying to do their jobs. However, until football cleans up its act,
corruption will persist. Falling attendances in Italy and England are
partially related to deficiencies in the sport on offer. Although the
prawn sandwich brigade remain oblivious to anything, the true fans know
when they are being short changed. The recent assertion by Graeme
Souness that British football is “the most honest in Europe” is simply
Tessa Jowell, the Minister for Culture, is aiming to
make Britain a clean and well regulated gambling environment. I fully
support her and her Department’s efforts but such efforts must extend
beyond the protection of the vulnerable and the targeting of company
directors with criminal links.
The football authorities also need
to take a lead in this area and not just in the betting arena. In the
lead up to the last World Cup, there was a real concern within FIFA that
Uzbekistan were going to make it to the finals. This would have been
politically unacceptable. In the first leg of the Asian Play Off with
Bahrain, the Uzbeks won 1-0 and had a penalty denied them by the
Japanese official. FIFA ludicrously ordered the game to be replayed and a
1-1 draw resulted. Bahrain won through in the Second Leg on away goals –
the official for that second game (obviously by chance in the light of
recent occurrences) was a certain Mr Graham Poll!
© Football Is Fixed/Dietrological