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Eoin O'Callaghan

Eoin O'Callaghan

Eoin has worked in sports broadcasting in Ireland as a researcher, reporter, presenter and producer. He is currently a soccer reporter/anchor with the Fox Soccer Report


TANGENTS

Reality Bytes For The Future Of Fixing Matches

Written by on February 6, 2013 | 9 Comments »
Posted in Money Game

Everything is quicker these days. And everyone wants to be the quickest. We don’t have time to digest convoluted things like statements, paragraphs, chapters. We’re looking for the gist. The headline. The byte.

If it fits within 140 characters, perfect. But just one tweet, please. Anymore and we’ve lost interest, to be honest. It’s our own fault. We have kids and mortgages and our salaries have been cut. We’re in negative equity. We’ve just done sixty hours this week with no overtime being paid. We’ve got to call around to the in-laws and are literally racing out the door right now. We’ve got about thirty seconds. Maybe forty. Hang on. The youngest has fallen over and cut her chin. We’ve literally got about 20 seconds now. So whatever you’ve got to tell us, tell us right now. Seriously.

Okay. There’s been match-fixing. Lots of it. So much of it that there’s been an investigation. Some Champions League games were fixed, one that was played in England, we think. World Cup qualifiers too. And it threatens the very fabric of the game.

Anymore?

Well, not really. That’s the gist.

Wow. That sounds serious. Really serious. Champions League, World Cup. What have the football authorities said about this?

Well, eh, we’re going to write to them and let them know that they should heed the, eh, warning. But did you not hear me? Match-fixing! In the Champions League!

Yes! So what games?

We can’t tell you. But they were big ones. We think.

According to Europol, the deep-rooted character of football is stained by these recent developments. Professionals have cheated for money. They’ve dirtied the once-clear, pure waters of the beautiful game. But it’s just another byte. Just another gist. It did its duty. It filled some space for a few minutes, got people talking for a while. The headlines were made. ‘Match-fixing: Fabric of the game is threatened’. The tweet heard around the world.

Is match-fixing a huge problem for football? Of course. At a very basic level, once there’s a genuine belief that it’s happening somewhere, the doubt creeps in. Your club. Your favourite player. Your favourite manager.

But even still, what happens after that?

When Calciopoli broke, it brought down some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Kind of. A year after the scandal was first uncovered, AC Milan, who were originally banned from competing in the 2007 Champions League because of their involvement in binfluencing referees, were crowned European winners in Athens.

Fiorentina, who were docked 15 points as punishment, finished the 2006/07 season in 6th and were playing in the Europa League just a few months later. Even Juventus, seen by their own as having been treated so appallingly, were back in the top-flight within a year. Another year later, they were back in the Champions League.

Two years ago, Sepp Blatter pounded his chest and proclaimed FIFA were introducing a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to match-fixing.

The big plan was to detect suspicious betting patterns early but there was a problem.

Where smaller bets were placed in a multitude of different betting shops, FIFA’s software system couldn’t join the dots. According to a recent Spiegel report, an ex-UEFA employee who had inside knowledge of how the system worked said it was ‘essentially blind’ if the bets weren’t excessive and didn’t stand out.

In other words, football’s governing body had provided the byte, the headline, the gist. They did their part. Just not very well.

Just last month Sepp Blatter pounded his chest and proclaimed football should have a zero tolerance approach to racism. He’s come a long way since telling CNN in November 2011 that there was no racism and that players should remember it’s all just a game.

Where once a handshake was enough to build a bridge, deduction of points and relegation should be the norm. But instead of zero tolerance there is, well, tolerance. Both Hungary and Bulgaria were found guilty of racial abuse last month. Their punishment? To play their next home World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors.

Match-fixing will continue, as it always has. It will creep up on those lower-ranked players, managers, officials and administrators. It will make criminals vast sums of money and leave the weak and desperate take the fall, if there is any.

At times, it will permeate the upper echelons of the game and for a brief moment or two, there will be a flurry of activity as the story breaks. But as always, change will only come from those willing to change.

The wrong-doers will only be caught if those chasing them are interested.

And right now, football’s leaders aren’t interested.

They’re just looking for the gist.

The headline.

The byte.   


9 Responses to “Reality Bytes For The Future Of Fixing Matches”

  1. Gary Johnson says:

    I really appreciated this story in that it looked beyond the sound bite. It amazes me that FIFA’s oversight measures are so week. When I see the safisticated things that can be done with surveillance software it makes me wonder who is on the take.

  2. gillyrosh says:

    You really write beautifully.

  3. John Bladen says:

    Good piece, Eoin.

    Beyond the obvious, what troubles me about the current discussion surrounding match fixing is that on balance fans don’t seem to care very much either.

    It’s all “some other league’s problem”, or only something that fans of obscure Canadian or Moldovan second division clubs should be concerned with.

    We seem a long, long way removed from the days when fixing shook the foundations of North American sport… when the paying public seemed ready to turn it’s back on cherished leagues & contests in which the outcome may not have been decided by skill and luck.

    Are we really so jaded as fans that we no longer care if the competition is actually legitimate?

    If so, in what way is modern sport different from reality television?

  4. Alberta Gooner says:

    For love the God, Eoin, please get in touch with Sportsnet about anchoring Soccer Central. You are needed there. Desperately. And Toronto — while no Winnipeg — isn’t a bad place to live. Honest.

  5. Gus Keri says:

    I add my voice to AG.

    Eoin, the 10 O’clock Fox Soccer program is not the same since the days of the “Fox Soccer Report.”

    Although I don’t understand most of your British-Culture-based jokes, I still miss the intelegent discussion between you and Bobby.

  6. Gus Keri says:

    Sorry for the typo. When I clicked ABC to check it, the comment was sent directly without correction.

    what even more amazing that the “edit” button didn’t appear with my first comment but it appeared with the second comment. Bad luck I guess.

  7. Ed Gomes says:

    Great piece.
    I think the saddest thing of all is that we’ve come to accept mediocrity. It is what it is.
    I just might be part of the problem. I’ve always felt the “big” clubs got the breaks, and understood it. Certain calls go their way, time added on, or not, scheduling, etc… It’s huge business and frankly leagues can’t survive without the big boys. Everyone loves a Cinderella story, but they better face a giant in the final.
    As for match fixing, there’s more than enough evidence if you look at refereeing. Some have been caught, which means plenty haven’t Just take a look at the semi of CAN. If not paid off, there’s definitely bias.

    Sadly your article holds true to every aspect of our lives.

    Oh yeah, I do enjoy Toronto. Not sure about living there but definitely a good place to visit.

  8. fifaTIM KIMBALL says:

    the involvement of gamblers with football goes back to the earliest days of wagering which village mob would kick the bladder thru the other village’s gate first.

    now a substantial number of teams wear jersies with gambling concern’s names emblazoned across the front. flash advertising offers deals and touts various bookie companies.

    fifa and its sub-fifas and the teams make a fortune from gambling. a substantial portion of the stands and the tv audience is motivated in part or competely by concern for their bets.

    the current “investigation” is not even the tip of the iceberg. other whiter, more poweerful groups weave their magic in much more subtle ways.

    BUT fifa is the boy who cried wolf. no more interest in combating match fixing than racism [note that few of fifa's hierarchy are of races subject to the insults, even terrorism invovled there]. more concerned with compeating uncontrolled advertising.

    fifa, what a sham. europol, more of the same.

  9. J says:

    Eoin,

    You actually don’t tweet enough (and it seems the others, above, would agree).

    Is there somewhere else we can follow your work or have you succumbed to (gasp) living?

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