Australia not immune from fixing scandal

LIAM FITZGIBBON
Last updated 14:18 05/02/2013
Reuters

Investigators from across Europe say they've identified a total of 680 suspicious football matches from around the world.

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Former Socceroo Robbie Slater has warned Australian football is not immune to match fixing after police in Europe unveiled a massive criminal network that rigged hundreds of matches around the world.

Europol said a five-country probe had identified some 380 suspicious matches targeted by a Singapore-based betting cartel, whose illegal activities stretched to players, referees and officials across the world and at all levels of the game.

Matches included two Champions League games, one of them in England, and World Cup qualifiers, netting criminals more than eight million euros ($A10.44 million).

While the scandal apparently involves some Asian football, there was no suggestion of A-League games or Socceroos games being involved and Slater said it was unlikely match fixing was an issue in Australia.

But the Fox Sports commentator said the wide-spread nature of the findings meant nothing could be ruled out.

Slater was playing with Lens in France when French heavyweights Marseille were relegated because of a bribery scandal in 1994 and speaking to people involved at the time opened his eyes to the existence of match fixing.

"I think anyone can (be involved)," Slater said.

"What my experience in France made me realise is it can happen to anyone, so it's not exclusive to one country.

"You would love to think in Australia, we are good sports and you'd love to think that's the case.

"We're a very new league. I'd be surprised if anything's gone on here but when you look at the amount of competitions that have been mentioned, you can't rule anything out."

Slater said even if Australia was not involved in the scandal, it could hurt the game here.

"Australian's don't like cheats," he said.

"If it's that deep, it can certainly have an affect on us."

Sydney FC defender Seb Ryall was shocked by the findings but was confident match fixing was not an issue in the A-League.

Anti-gambling advocate Nick Xenophon called for tougher laws for betting on sport and politics.

The independent senator also wants to know if soccer matches in Australia have been fixed.

"The laws here are inadequate," Senator Xenophon told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

He said ball-by-ball and micro-betting made sports ripe for corruption and match fixing and said the findings from Europol were "very disturbing".

Football Federation Australia were expected to comment later on Tuesday.

Europol director Rob Wainwright told a news conference in The Hague the fall-out hit at the heart of the world game's reputation.

"It is clear to us that this is the biggest investigation ever into suspected match fixing," Wainwright said.

World governing body FIFA said closer cooperation was needed between football's authorities and law enforcement agencies to crack down on match-fixers.

European governing body UEFA for its part said it was already working with the authorities.

The global policing body's chief Ronald Noble said last November it expected to make arrests in Singapore over last year's Italian illegal betting scandal after links were suspected between one suspect and crimelord Tan Seet Eng or Dan Tan.

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As part of investigations, which involved investigators in Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Finland and Austria, 14 people have already been sentenced to a total of 39 years in prison, Europol said, with more than 100 prosecutions still expected.

At least 425 referees, players and other officials were suspected of involvement, with matches rigged so that major sums of money could be won through betting.

Some 151 suspects were living in Germany, 66 in Turkey and 29 in Switzerland but suspects fixing matches in other parts of Europe and around the world are also being probed, Europol said.

As well as arrests, some two million euros ($A2.61 million) in cash and profits were seized, Europol said.

A further 300 suspicious matches were identified outside Europe in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. 

- AAP

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