Tuesday, 7 May 2013

When Is A Competitive Football Match Not A Competitive Football Match?

When you have an entirely corrupted sport with vast differentials between success or failure, Champions League qualification or not, league survival or relegation, it is unsurprising that the end of season brings all the cockroaches out into the open.

All four of the main leagues in Europe experience this end of season poker play/ power play - the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga.

Fans pay their hard-earned, austerity-sliced money to go and watch their heroes enact fixed events for private benefit.
Of course, some of these fans (think Manchester United or Real Madrid ones) are so religiously obsessed with the power of their teams that any criminalities and lack of integrity is seen as valid if it furthers the branded success of their entity.

                                                 Spanish Football Is Shameless

We focused on the fixed match, the maletĂ­n (the little suitcase), between Levante and Deportivo La Coruna in the last post and we should add some further flesh to that story.

Sid Lowe: "But Al Primer Toque, the nightly show on Onda Cero radio, reported that the sequence appears to have been Levante players contacting the striker Carlos Aranda at Granada and telling him that they had an offer from Depor... to throw the game and did Granada want to make a counter offer for Levante to try and win it, thus aiding their survival bid? They would, in other words, auction their effort."

Now the benefits to Deportivo or Granada are evident - survival and financial well-being in La Liga as relegation, in the former case, might lead to extinction and, in the latter case, might lead to the Pozzo family moving their financial support elsewhere.
But the benefits to Levante are purely commercial to the rogue players - what about fans, sponsors, bettors, television companies and other media?

But there is more to these collective criminalities than just points and suitcases of money.

Last weekend, the matches between Mallorca/Levante and Deportivo/Atletico were highly suspicious events involving bizarre refereeing and a very dubious goalkeeping performance...
... and two entirely fake results.

The most likely players to be criminalised are:
i) Those reaching the end of their careers with no loyalty to anything other than their bank balance.
ii) Goalkeepers as they can have the biggest impact on outcomes.
iii) Players doing the dirty work of mafia agents.
iv) Players who are to be transferred in the next transfer window.

The three players accused of being non-triers by Javi Barkero in the Levante/Deportivo game were goalie MunĂșa (35), Ballesteros (37) and Juanfran (36) - the former two were dropped from the next Levante event.

Referees, meanwhile, do as they are told by their bosses and then apply the rules of the game accordingly...
... and selectively.

So for Depor v Atletico, Ayza Gamez received 1/10 from Marca for missing two La Coruna penalties and perfectly good Atletico goal...
... while Marca gave Gonzalez Gonzalez 3/10 after he denied Mallorca the clearest of penalties and disallowed a goal for the Balearic islanders to ensure that, despite dominating the match against Levante, the outcome was level.

                                         Dudu Aouate Advertising His Credentials

Mallorca also have an issue with a rogue Israeli goalkeeper Dudu Aouate who is the most "problematical" goalie in the four main European leagues in the department entitled integrity (Aouate is 35 years old).

These results together with a gift of a penalty for Real Zaragoza (at 0-0 v Rayo Vallecano) by Texeira Vitienes (Marca 2/10) and two sendings off and a penalty against Osasuna, mean that the little suitcases will be criss-crossing Spain over the next few weeks.

Of course, powerful clubs don't bother with suitcases of money but rather go for indirect ownership or other mutually beneficial structures - think Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Bet365/Stoke City or Juventus and Siena.

And many large agents direct match outcomes to the benefits of their clients (and, of course, their 20% slice of the action).

But all of these structures destroy the sport of football.
Prizes go to the powerful or the poker players while the ethical are relegated.

And so it goes on...

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