On Friday FIFA boldly announced it had made a number of arrests in Asia related to football betting. However, ever on the ball (excuse the pun) when it comes to corruption, Declan Hill swiftly commented to restore a sense of contempt for FIFA and its attempts to address corruption in the worldwide game. In what can only be seen as an encouraging move, the BBC also gave air to Declan’s comments too.
It appears it’s all a game: Some low level players in the corruption ring are arrested so that the police and FIFA get to look good and people get off their backs for a bit. It seems like some tacit game that is played: The big players get to carry on just as before provided they let a few small players be knocked off every now and again.
The main issue is that gambling on sports events is illegal in vast parts of Asia – and hence Hill compares the current situation to the prohibition-era United States, where the mafia and organised crime got its fillip. The organised gambling market in Asia was estimated to be worth $450bn in 2006 and one only wonders how big it is now.
And of course, these arrests will change nothing: Willing punters all over Asia will carry on betting on matches illegally. Of course, if it was just the betting itself, that wouldn’t be too bad. It’s the fact that matches are rigged also. We only wait to see the extent of rigging of matches in Europe, but it certainly seems that low level matches are targetted – a Macedonian team was recently banned for 8 years by UEFA for their part in rigging matches.