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Old 2nd December 2007, 11:43   #1
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Default Uefa launches inquiry after claims of 15 fixed matches

Uefa launches inquiry after claims of 15 fixed matches
With millions being wagered in Asia on the outcome of matches, there are fears that corruption is about to rear its head again

Ian Hawkey, European football correspondent, in Lucerne The Sunday Times
December 2, 2007

EUROPEAN football’s governing body is investigating 15 matches from this season’s Champions League, Uefa Cup and Euro 2008 competitions after suspicions that international gambling syndicates were trying to profit by rigging the results of games.

The fixtures concerned are believed to involve mainly southern and eastern European teams playing in the preliminary rounds of the game’s most elite tournaments, with the bets having been placed mostly in Asia.

Michel Platini, the Uefa president, met with representatives of Europol, the pan-European police organisation who deal with organised crime, in Brussels last week to discuss how to improve early-warning systems that pick up unusual betting patterns around matches. He told The Sunday Times yesterday: “It’s a big problem for us. We have known that for a long time and it could become very bad for football, and for all sport, in the future.”

Platini described the sort of scenario Uefa is facing: “We know that in Hong Kong, Singapore or elsewhere in Asia you might have a single bet of $10m on a match ending 4-4. It’s coming to the end of the match, it’s 2-2 and there are four penalties, and it finishes 4-4. We knew about these cases because we do have an early-warning system in place. We do know that some teams were approached by people.”

A 96-page dossier has been given to Europol, outlining circumstances around the 15 matches, believed to involve teams from Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia and a Baltic country. A Uefa source said no fixtures involving English teams were being investigated: “They tend to target games which don’t attract a lot of publicity,” the source added.

“These 15 are games we knew about,” added Platini, “because of the early-warning systems and because we knew, we were able to ‘protect’ these games. But I am concerned and this is a big problem for the future, not only in Europe, but in Asia.” The gravity of the situation was underlined by Graham Bean, an ex-police officer and the former head of the Football Association’s compliance unit: “These are serious allegations, but having said that they will be difficult to investigate.

“Clearly for Uefa to pass this report across [to the police] they must have evidence of some kind, perhaps as a result of betting patterns. For something involving these type of games, then this is potentially one of the most serious things that has ever happened in world football.”

Earlier this week, Uefa opened an investigation into the InterToto Cup match between Bulgarians Cherno More and Macedonia’s Makedonija on July 7, which Cherno More won 4-0. The Bulgarian club deny any wrongdoing.

Uefa do not expect the investigation to be completed rapidly and the precedents confirm the difficulties in collecting evidence of collusion between gamblers and players or officials. A 2004 Uefa Cup tie between Greek club Panionios and Dinamo Tblisi of Georgia that drew unusually high stakes – it finished 5-2, the scoreline attracting the heavy betting – is still awaiting the verdict of a Uefa disciplinary committee.

Last year, a match-fixing scandal hit Italy’s Serie A, with Juventus, relegated to the Italian second division and AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina deducted points after officials at each club were found to have been manipulating the appointment referees, referee’s assistants and refereeing administrators. Belgium and Holland have confirmed that they will not drop their bid to host the 2018 World Cup to free up support across Europe for England’s campaign. Mathieu Sprengers, the Dutch FA’s representative on the Uefa executive committee, said: “We are two of the founders of Fifa. Do you think after 100 years, we should step back and just let England go ahead?”

There is concern that too many European bids – Russia may also enter the race – could split the eight votes Uefa has on the 24-man Fifa committee and damage Europe’s hopes of hosting the tournament.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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