Just when I was really getting into this World Cup thing, I see an interview with a guy called Declan Hill . Hill is an investigative journalist and former researcher with CBC’s the fifth estate and has won several awards for his work.
In 2008, Declan Hill published The Fix: Soccer & Organized Crime.
Over four years, he interviewed more than two hundred people, including professional gamblers, Mafia hitmen, undercover cops, top-level international soccer players, referees, and officials. He met men who claim they have bribed their way into fixing the results of some of the biggest matches in the sport. Initially very sceptical, Hill travelled across four continents to corroborate their stories. He found soccer leagues where mobsters have fixed more than eighty per cent of the games.
The book, however, is not just about match fixing in soccer, the world’s most popular sport. Throughout the text, Hill uses examples from other sports – tennis, hockey, even rowing – to show that the credibility of professional sport now lies on a fragile foundation, and it provides enough hints to suspect that all sports above amateur level should look nervously over their shoulder.
Hill’s book has been translated into 14 languages and within 3 weeks of its publication, the Union of European Football Associations set up a special unit comprised of gambling experts and police officers to conduct a thorough investigation. The unit helped German investigators identify some 200 matches that were fixed in Europe and arrested 75 people.
Unfortunately, FIFA (which Declan Hill calls the “Vatican of Soccer”) refuses to conduct an investigation into World Cup match-fixing. He reckons with 40 billion dollars in bets on World Cup events, there’s a lot at stake.
During the last World Cup, Hill befriended the former goalkeeping coach of the team from Ghana and was given the results of an upcoming match in advance.
They said the game against Brazil was going to be three goals and above two days before the game actually happened,” Hill said, adding that he believes that game was fixed. The goalkeeping coach was later fired after being caught fixing games.
According to the Globe & Mail, the most dangerous time for match fixing in the World Cup is coming up now that the preliminary eliminations are out of the way. On Hill’s blog this week he suggests a couple of things to be aware of during upcoming matches which might indicate fixed game possibilities:
- Games where one team has nothing to play for. Even if they win the teams will not progress to the next stage of the competition.
- Teams which have a history of not paying their players properly. It is the phenomenon of relative exploitation which drives fixing. The officials receive lots of money, the players comparatively little.
Check out the blog for further details and information.
Is anyone shocked and/or surprised by this? I kind of am. Probably I was being naive by never even considering that these things could be rigged. D’uh!
When I was watching the Declan Hill interview last night I felt kind of deflated. Is there anything left to enjoy that isn’t rife with corruption?