Author Declan Hill investigates the problem fixing soccer matches

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      A Canadian expert on soccer and organized crime says there’s a “relatively high” chance that some matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup have been fixed.

      Declan Hill, author of The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime (McClelland & Stewart, 2008), told the Georgia Straight by phone that his sources in the Asian gambling market have informed him that organized criminals have gone to South Africa for the tournament.

      “They are trying to figure out how to approach the teams and what they’re going to do to get to the teams,” he said. “I know that, absolutely.”

      Hill, a former researcher with CBC’s fifth estate program, obtained a doctorate from the University of Oxford for studying how matches are fixed in professional soccer. He noted that he’s not a sports journalist, so he didn’t have to worry about offending sports officials who control access to players.

      “Ironically, that was a great advantage to me because it meant that a whole bunch of players and sports officials and referees were desperate to talk about this,” Hill said. “They came forward and spoke to me. In the end, I had over 220 interviews and I had a lot of statistical stuff.”

      The book, which has been translated into 14 languages, caused a sensation in Europe when it came out in September 2008. Within three weeks, the Union of European Football Associations set up a special integrity unit with gambling experts and former police officers. Hill said he was contacted by the head of the organization, which flew him to Switzerland to provide advice on how the unit should operate.

      “As an author, you can’t ask for more than that,” he stated. “It’s an extraordinary compliment to be given.”

      Hill said the integrity unit assisted German investigators in identifying 200 matches that were fixed in Europe. Hill added that more than 75 people have been arrested.

      He contrasted this approach with that of FIFA, which is staging the World Cup. Hill claimed that it’s like the “Vatican of soccer”, and it’s not doing anything effective to grapple with the problem of gamblers fixing matches.

      “What they’ve done is set up a private company to monitor the gambling companies,” he said. “I don’t know why you would set up a private company to do this.”

      Hill estimated that about $40 billion is wagered on the World Cup, which makes it extremely difficult to detect unusual betting patterns. In his book, he describes an undercover operation in which he befriended the former goalkeeping coach of the team from Ghana in the last World Cup. He said he was wearing a wire to tape conversations, and he was given the results of an upcoming match in advance.

      “They said the game against Brazil was going to be three goals and above two days before the game actually happened,” Hill said, adding that he believes that game was fixed. The goalkeeping coach was later fired after being caught fixing games.

      Hill pointed out that players from Trinidad and Tobago have complained about not being paid bonuses for the last World Cup. Earlier this year, players from Honduras claimed that they weren’t paid for getting through the qualifying rounds. “There will be players in this World Cup in 2010 who don’t know how much they will get paid or even if they’ll get paid for playing in the World Cup,” Hill maintained.

      Comments

      2 Comments

      glen p robbins

      Jun 24, 2010 at 9:02am

      Didn't Canada run into a problem with this back in the 1980's when Coach Bobby Lenarduzzi---managed to guide the Canadian team into the gutter in International rankings?

      Back in the late 1970's I got to play some goal for the Canadian soccer team -- many of us were offered soccer scholarships at major U.S. Universities -- I wouldn't go to the U.S. - simply because the quality of soccer -- I believed was too backward.

      Look at us now. Hockey might be Canada's sport but the U.S. are equal to us there -- soccer (and rugby) sports the U.S. were not very good at -- well things change -- and Canada seems to take steps backward rather than forward.

      From talking to folks -- my speculation is that Canada -- in many sports--like soccer is more about politics than achieving success.

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      glen p robbins

      Jun 29, 2010 at 2:50pm

      To ensure credibility -- I would add that in 1998-1999 my company Showco - was a sponsor of the Vancouver 86ers. My company paid $500 for each 86er shut out -- $1,000 for a hat trick. Announcements were made at half time -- with an eligible 86er player coming out to recieve their 'great big cheque'. I had paid out about $7,000 nearing season end -- when one team came in and not only did the 86er goalie obtain a shutout ($500), the 86ers scored nine goals - by only 3 players.

      The 86er hat tricks appeared appalling easy to me -- and I immediately informed Mr. Lenarduzzi that I did not want to participate any further in the sponsorship.

      What had concerned me most however -- was one game I was attended to present half time $$$ -- I believe it was when Carl V left -- there were a number of ex Whitecaps (big name) from NASL championship in attendance.

      No-one from this group of NASL era Whitecaps had anything positive to say about Mr. L ---- they did not hesitate to voice these opinions in front of me--knowing full well I was a sponsor. I asked -- Why do this then?
      The response was -- it was for soccer.

      Since then I have had occasion to speak with former Whitecaps - including a fellow who lives near me --- again nothing positive and some emphatic negative statements.

      It is interesting that many of Mr. L's former teammates have not integrated with him in the soccer development here in the lower mainland.

      I do take note that at one Chamber of Commerce meeting (Stephane Dion) I met a couple Italian Canadians -- top brass at BC Soccer Ass--and note that another good Italian Canadian -- running soccer Canada.

      The major complaints in 1998 from former Whitecaps was 'backstabbing' and 'nepotism'.

      I admire Bobby Lenarduzzi greatly for his perseverance with the 86ers and Whitecaps through good and bad times--for this he deserves credit.

      On the other hand my assertion that Mr. L is greatly responsible for the beginning of the ruin for soccer in Canada -- stands.

      A professional team is important for players to aspire to -- it should not be the apex of control for the amateur ranks as well (see soccer schools etc).

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