Match fixing in Pakistan Cricket

November 2, 2011

I’ll admit it, I never understood the sport of Cricket that much.  I’ve watched a few times, and I get the general idea of the game, but have never developed a true love for the sport.  That said, every year I make my students here in the United States watch videos to try and better understand the game as part of an international sport class I teach.

The big news which hit the cricket world today was of match fixing (in this case called “spot-fixing”) during the highly prestigious Lord’s Test match against England earlier this summer.  Those who were on trial for this match-fixing included Salman Butt (the former Pakistan captain) and Mohammad Asif.  Both of these two individuals, along with another bowler for Pakistan are said to have conspired to bowl no-balls during the match.  The BBC’s explanation as follows:

Spot-betting involves gamblers staking money on the minutiae of sporting encounters such as the exact timing of the first throw-in during a football match or, as in this case, when a no-ball will be bowled.

All of this started with a tabloid claiming the players took money to deliberately bowl no-balls (a bowl which is illegal in some manner, and results in the awarding of a point to the opposing team) during the match, and ended with both bowlers being found guilty of conspiracy to cheat by a jury earlier today.

Following this, there was lots of talk of this being a good example to young athletes as to why not to cheat, because the consequences can be quite heavy.  It is said that the bowlers found guilty today were being leaned on heavily by others to bowl the no-balls on purpose.

And yet, I somehow think this may not change things that greatly in the sport.  While young players may see the dangers, there have been similar issues of match-fixing with many sports around the world, and often is the case where we see repeats of similar match-fixing incidents over and over again.  Though in the spirit of the game, I do hope things are cleaned up.


Sepp Blatter doesn’t call it a “crisis”

May 30, 2011

That’s right, despite several previous posts (here, here, and here) noting the bribery and corruption issues which have hit FIFA, Sepp Blatter claims that the organization is not in crisis.  It seems with each passing day (or literally, a few passing hours since my previous post) that more details and news seems to make this FIFA bribery and corruption scandal look even worse.  Blatter said in a very lively press conference:

“Crisis? What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis.  We are not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties and these difficulties will be solved — and they will be solved inside this family.”

I think someone is in denial.  There is clearly a mass of issues here, but Blatter is most likely to be president for another couple of years, and probably his ego tells him he is in control, so nothing can go wrong.  But with all these issues which have come under his watch, how can anyone really trust FIFA in the future?

In more corruption news, FIFA cleared Nicolas Leoz, a FIFA member from Paraguay who had been charged with asking for favors in return for his vote for the 2018 World Cup host selection process.  Reading a report on the 2018 World Cup host selection process on FIFA’s website, you can see that it is alleged that Mr. Leoz’s assistant asked for the FA Cup to be named after him, and a knighthood and in return he would give a vote for the 2018 World Cup to be held in England.  You can read the full report: here.  It is full of great quotes and allegations, yet FIFA somehow is saying this really didn’t happen, or it isn’t serious enough to take into consideration.

The question arises: Why is Blatter and Leoz off with no charges, but Bin Hammam and Warner suspended?  It all points to FIFA keeping those who are currently in higher positions of power in their current place.  I don’t know how much damage control FIFA can do, but I’m thinking that this whole scandal could be costly.  I’m imagining countries are going to be less likely to pour money into World Cup bids with all of this news.  Of course, the counter-point could be that they might actually put in more money, knowing that a few well placed bribes could be the secret to being named a host.

In one other piece of news, I’d like to congratulate Swansea for their 4-2 win over Reading earlier today to secure promotion from the nPower championship up to the Premier League for next season.  The boost in revenue should be nice for them, but we’ll see if they will be able to hang around the top flight of English professional soccer for long.

$40,000 to “do what you want with”

May 30, 2011

See that picture to the right?  That is $40,000, brand new U.S. hundred dollar bills.  It is also supposedly a picture taken by Fred Lunn or another member of the Bahamas Football Association (FA).  Mr. Lunn, a vice-president for the Bahamas FA was at the meeting which Bin Hammam had with members of the various Caribbean football associations to try and make his case to become the FIFA president.  As noted in previous posts, Bin Hammam along with CONCACAF’s Jack Warner have both been temporarily suspended from football related activities by the FIFA ethics panel.

This morning, the picture you see to the right emerged, as part of the evidence which was given to the ethics panel.  Mr. Lunn noted that he went into a room to receive a gift from Bin Hammam and picked up the envelope and literally had a pile of hundred dollar bills spill out.  This seems more like a good mob movie, than a FIFA meeting.  Lunn contacted the head of his FA, and they agreed that the money was to be returned.  Of course, being smart, they snapped a quick photo of the money.  It is claimed that the money was for whatever each FA wanted to do with it.  They could use it for grassroots programs, training, development, or lining their own pockets.  Mr. Lunn went back to the room to give back the money, but found he had to wait in line, as others were queued up to get in.  He then texted his FA head saying:

“a lot of the boys taking the cash, this is sad given the breaking news on the TV CNN… I’m truly surprise its happening at this conference”

So it appears that a lot of people did take the cash.

In more FIFA corruptions news:

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has confirmed that he sent an email to the now suspended Jack Warner saying that the 2022 World Cup had been bought.

Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has called for FIFA to be “Red Carded” and for Australia to not spend any more money on World Cup bids until this whole process is straightened out.

And in a bit of positive news for FIFA, or possibly a well-timed release to try and make it look like they are actually fighting against corruption, FIFA has announced it has helped to break up a match-fixing ring in the UAE.  They claim that this ring has ties to both Asia and Europe, and is an important move against corruption in the game.

I think that FIFA has bigger corruption issues in house at the moment.

Can FIFA survive?

May 29, 2011

FIFA, the governing body for football (or soccer as we call it in my home countries of the U.S. and Japan), has been in the spotlight lately for corruption.  I once noted to my students in class that FIFA is probably the second most corrupt governing body in sport after the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  I might have to retract this statement after the latest round of corruption and allegations which have come out.  In a previous post I noted the potential scandal of buying votes to choose the host for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  The newest round of scandal has occurred because of the election race for the Presidency of FIFA.  Current FIFA President Sepp Blatter is running for re-election, his opponent in this election is Mohamed Bin Hammam who is a FIFA vice-president and the head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).  As the election approached there was some talk of Bin Hammam having bribed people to vote for him, Bin Hammam said that Blatter was doing the same thing, CONCACAF head Jack Warner(who is also a FIFA vice-president as well) was also indicated in the whole mess.  Details indicate that Warner handed out $40,000 bundles of cash to Caribbean Football members at a meeting, Blatter is accused of giving a million dollars to CONCACAF for them to “use as they please.”

FIFA’s ethics panel examined the cases of these three individuals.  Bin Hammam, who had already pulled out of the running for FIFA President because of this incident, was suspended from football related activities along with Jack Warner.  Their ban is a temporary one, which could be lifted or made longer pending the further findings of the ethics panel.  Sepp Blatter, on the other hand, was let off free without any sanctions.  The suspicions of whether the ethics panel can be trusted is already being widely discussed.  Bin Hammam and Warner have also hit out against their suspensions.  Bin Hammam stated:

“…I also indicated that at the Miami CONCACAF Congress on May 3rd, Mr. Blatter made a gift of one million USD to CONCACAF to spend as it deems fit. This annoyed President Michel Platini who was present and he approached Secretary General Jerome Valcke complaining that Mr Blatter had no permission from the Finance Committee to make this gift to which Jerome replied that he will find the money for Mr Blatter.

So, what is the aftermath?  FIFA is supposedly paying more attention to corruption (so they claim), and Sepp Blatter will most likely be elected to serve as the ruler of FIFA yet again.  As a friend of mine noted, this seems like something you would expect from a dictatorship.  That same friend in the comments to a previous post noted that he thinks that some countries should break away from FIFA and start a new federation.

Former IOC vice-president Dick Pound has now made similar statements, basically noting that countries may form a break away association if FIFA doesn’t handle this mess quickly.  Sort of ironic hearing that from a former IOC official.

So can FIFA survive?  I think they can.  I think Blatter will be back in charge ruling with an iron fist and claiming more transparency.  However, FIFA is not in the clear, if anything more and more questions are being raised, and I can imagine a lot of angry countries who lost out on the World Cup bidding process wanting some form of retribution.  I’ll be interested to see how this saga continues.


How to buy the World Cup

May 11, 2011

The Sunday Times has given evidence to an MP claiming that several FIFA members accepted $1.5 million from Qatar.  Clearly the implication is that these FIFA members were paid by Qatar to vote for them to host the 2022 World Cup.  The two individuals specifically named in the Sunday Times evidence include FIFA vice-president Issa Hayatou from Cameroon and Jacques Anouma from the Ivory Coast.  Additionally Lord Triesman, former chairman of the FA accused four FIFA executive members for asking for gifts in return for their votes for the 2018 World Cup hosting rights.

This isn’t the first time, nor the last time that FIFA will be accused of corruption.  That there may be evidence implicating the 2nd in charge of FIFA of taking bribe money is a big deal in my opinion.  Nothing is proved at the moment, but these allegations can not be taken lightly.

World Cup Decision: Anger and Frustration

December 3, 2010

Let the recriminations begin.  Yesterday, Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup, with England’s bid being eliminated at the first stage.  Vladimir Putin has described the vote and decision as “fair”, and I’m sure it is in his eyes.  Just not in the rest of the world’s eyes.

In somewhat similar conditions, the US also lost out for the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.  In both situations it seems clear: The best bid did not win.  It seems also clear that large quantities of money were involved.  Clearly, Qatar could throw a huge amount of money at their bid and did, as could Russia.  In both cases, another host would have provided a more lucrative profitable World Cup for FIFA.

As can be inferred thus far from this post, the outcome has left a huge amount of questions unanswered – as Declan Hill is pointing at.  How is it that the most profitable, commercially successful bid crashed out at the first stage for 2018?  Most of the England entourage have pointed at something: The total lack of integrity of FIFA members voting.  They’ll say yes to your face, but when voting it’s a different story.  Moreover, it is coincidence that the country from which two exposes of FIFA’s corrupt nature originated got just two votes from 22?

I’m personally not all that disappointed England didn’t get the World Cup.  I’m not sure how much I really wanted it.  But it’s fair to say it would have been, along with the other European bidders, the World Cup leaving the least White Elephants (Qatar, incredibly enough, plans on exporting its stadia to better uses after the tournament – and air condition when while in the desert – it is nice to see how much FIFA is concerned about the environment), since all stadia would have been the homes of English football clubs.  And therein lies a huge issue yet again unanswered for by FIFA’s unaccountable committees.  Stadia still lie barely used in Japan and South Korea after 2002, and I wonder what the legacy is for the stadia in South Africa now the world has left.  Yet FIFA commits itself to a load more such stadia in Russia, and wherever the Qatari stadia end up.

Then: The positive spin of course is that new places get to see the World Cup.  Wasn’t it nice to have it in Africa in the summer?  And won’t it be lovely to have it in mafia land in 2018, and in the desert (where alcohol is banned amongst other things natural to the football fan).  Sarcasm aside, it is nice to spread the tournament around, but this leaves, along with the legacy issue, another big and frustrating issue.  Why didn’t FIFA make this abundantly clear before the bidding began?  Why did it let old, established nations (which I think the US has to belong to in football terms these days) waste so much money on bidding if it was all in vain?  As this Guardian piece makes clear, David Cameron could have instead been back in the UK making important decisions, and perhaps not closing quite so many school sports programmes as part of the austerity his party is foistering onto the UK.

It’s been mooted for years (as the first page of Declan Hill’s ‘The Fix’ makes clear) that FIFA is unaccountable and corrupt and the biggest upshot of all this has to be that the institution needs reforming.  As it stands it continues to drive football fans to despair the world over yet has no incentive to actually take their views into account – instead taking bribes and saying one thing to one person and another to another and making corrupt decisions affecting billions worldwide.  How long must we endure this?

Corruption again

July 17, 2010

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.