Investigators expose global soccer fixing scam
By Thomas Escritt
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Hundreds of soccer matches have been fixed in a global betting scam run from Singapore, police said on Monday, in a blow to the image of the world's most popular sport and a multi-billion dollar industry.
About 680 suspicious matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides, have been identified in an inquiry by European police forces, the European anti-crime agency Europol, and national prosecutors.
"This is a sad day for European football," said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol. "This is now an integrity issue for football. Those responsible for running the games should hear the warnings."
The world's most popular sport, soccer is played on every continent. The World Cup and Europe's Champions League are beamed worldwide and generate billions of dollars for national associations, clubs and broadcasters.
Top players such as Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese international who plays his club soccer for Real Madrid, are household names.
The matches in question, some of which have already been subject to successful criminal prosecutions, were played between 2008 and 2011, the investigators said. About 380 of the suspicious matches were played in Europe, and a further 300 were identified in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Corruption linked to Asian betting syndicates and organized crime has long been seen as a threat to the game, but Monday's announcement underlines the scale of the problem.
Ralf Mutschke, Director of Security for world soccer's governing body FIFA, said sports bodies and prosecutors needed to work more closely together. Continued...