Confirmed UK arrests in Breaking Match-Fixing Scandal

November 28, 2013 in Non-League by Louis Baxter

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After conducting an undercover investigation, the Telegraph has uncovered the existence of an international match-fixing ring, said to be targeting lower league games. Six arrests have been confirmed, one of them reported to be ex-Bolton Wanderers player turned agent Delroy Facey. This would be the first match-fixing scandal on home soil in the Premier League era and even with the story in its infancy, there’s the sense that heads will roll for this. Players involved could well get lifetime bans and perhaps clubs could face massive points deductions, or possibly even demotions through the leagues.

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It is interesting to note that this scandal appears to be targeting lower league games. I’d imagine that’s because it’s hard to bribe a player who’s already earning half a million a month in the Premier League; whereas in the lower leagues, the financial disparity is so extreme that something like 50,000 pounds to a player earning a living in non-league football, reportedly the area targeted by the match fixers, will be twice, possibly three times what players might earn in a year. This financial vulnerability is of course no excuse for criminality, and given that non-league is essentially both out of mind and out of sight to the UK public (there is no highlights show, no coverage of non-league games), one also has to assume that the checks and balances are also less rigorous, because that level of football won’t have the financial structure to put them effectively in place.

According to reports, unspecific non-league games were attracting more betting attention than Barcelona, largely fuelled by unregulated betting markets in Asia, the same entities that have been responsible for the wave of match-fixing scandals that have swept through the European game in the last few years. This not forgetting the Europol announcement in February, where they declared they were investigating the integrity of 380 games that had taken place across five countries. And on our shores, UK bookmakers stopped taking bets on AFC Hornchurch, Billericay Town and Chelmsford City for fear that the result could not be trusted. The FA issued a warning then, but you suspect now punishments might be more severe.

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Perhaps there are some people who a grateful that the corruption appears to be confined to the levels of football that dare not speak their name, amidst the glamour of our international profit juggernaut the Premier League, but they shouldn’t be. This is what will happen if areas of our game are neglected. It’s the Conference South for now, but its not hard too imagine that level of financial desperation moving up to the Conference, to League Two or maybe even League One before long. You only have to look at how many Football League teams have gone into administration over the past 20 years to know the state of the game. And we have to do all we can to ensure that the game’s integrity is maintained at all levels, not just the top one or two. That means hitting any players involved with lifetime bans, and any clubs that turned a blind eye with severe punishments. But it also means considering ways in which lower level football can be supported in an age when the game is positively overflowing with cash.

More information will come out on this story over the next couple of weeks, and I imagine things will only get worse.

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