Illegal betting and match-fixing in Europe’s football fields have become a source of frustration for both die-hard football fans and the sport’s governing bodies in recent decades. According to the findings of a recent study, the illegal sports betting markets are responsible for nearly 140 billion dollars in annual laundering.
The problem in football stems from within the sport, as dishonest players, referees, administrators, and club owners collude and play dirty games to further their own interests at the expense of those who are not part of their inner circle.
Match-fixing scandals have occurred in Europe’s football industry, ranging from incidents involving lower-tier teams to those involving top-tier big shots in the English Premier League to full-fledged investigations such as Italy’s Calciopoli affair in 2006. All of these scandals have wreaked havoc on the industry.
The latter occurred not long after Italy’s historic World Cup victory, and it gave new meaning to the phrase “match-fixing” due to the involvement of major clubs such as Milan, Juventus, Lazio, and Fiorentina. Luciano Moggi, the General Director of Juventus, was the mastermind behind this criminal organization. He worked with other teams’ directors and officials, was involved in large-scale match-fixing, and was convicted of bribing referees to ensure favorable results in crucial matches. While those responsible for the crimes were punished, those at higher levels were treated more leniently by the court system.
Juventus was demoted to the second rather than the third level as a result of its appeal, and AC Milan, managed by Silvio Berlusconi, was assessed several symbolic point deductions while remaining in the first division.
Football fans had high hopes that match-fixing, bribery, and money laundering would never happen again, but those hopes were dashed this year when 13 players and referees were found guilty of match-fixing, bribery, and money laundering charges in England. These high-profile incidents have highlighted the corrupt ties that can easily develop between clubs, players, and officials, posing a threat to the allure of the world’s most popular sport.
The red-colored card
Following these high-profile scandals, Europe has finally shown a willingness to confront the issue head-on by committing to a brand-new anti-match-fixing pact drafted by the Council of Europe. The Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions was signed on September 18 by representatives from 15 countries, including Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Greece.
The convention is set to go into effect on January 1, 2015. Its goal is to encourage collaboration among nations, sports associations, leagues, and competitions to speed up the flow of information and, as a result, combat match-fixing and corruption in sports on a much larger scale.
Despite the fact that this plan should be applauded for being a bold first step toward combating the corrosive nature of sports corruption, additional actions are required for it to gain a genuine footing on a global scale. First and foremost, the convention’s signatories must be able to demonstrate their unwavering commitment to rooting out trespassers within their borders. However, if the current state of affairs in even one of these signing nations is any indication, this fight may be difficult.
Offside football is a popular sport in Greece
The fact that deep-seated corruption and match-fixing are both prevalent in Greek football is not a new development. According to a recent assessment, Greek football, like the rest of Greek society, is afflicted by a pervasive culture of corruption that pervades both the population and the government. A staggering 64.0 percent of players said they were certain that games in their league had been fixed in the previous year, while 12.8 percent claimed they had been contacted to fix a match within the previous year.
The match-fixing scandal that occurred at Koriopolis in 2011 emphasizes this point even more (which was named to mimic its Italian equivalent). A series of leaked phone recordings between powerful figures revealed evidence that pointed to the existence of a criminal organization in Greek football involved in match-fixing, extortion, bribery, and other forms of intimidation. The recordings were made while the powerful figures were conversing.
Even though the investigation is still ongoing, little has been done to bring the individuals in charge of the organization to justice. This includes Evangelos Marinakis, the shipping magnate and Olympiakos FC owner. The prosecutor in this case, in this case, claims that Marinakis used his position as President of the Greek Football Federation Giorgos Sarris, whom he is accused of helping elect, to ensure the installation of specific referees to secure the desired match results.
According to the prosecutor’s assertion, Despite the published phone recordings, the Greek media has repeatedly refused to report on the matter, allowing Marinakis, Olympiacos FC, and others to continue playing without fear of repercussions.
In contrast to the Calciopoli scandal in Italy, where the criminal justice system demonstrated its willingness to confront Big Football, the same cannot be said for Greece, where both the media and the authorities are either unwilling or afraid to confront the state of corruption that exists within the Hellenic Football Federation. The criminal justice system in Italy demonstrated its willingness to challenge Big Football.
The new Convention is unquestionably a step in the right direction in the difficult task of combating match-fixing in football; however, without the full commitment of nations and the international community, these efforts are likely to be futile. If football continues on its current path of self-destruction, it may have an impact not only on how society perceives football teams, leagues, and associations, but also on how the public perceives the media, the legal system, and the government in general. It is critical to remember Michel Platini’s statement that “football is a reflection of society.” It reflects not only society’s values but also its anxieties and biases.