Wednesday 28 May 2014

Red Flag

With the abundance of top class football we are all lucky enough to have at our fingertips today, why anybody would bother with meaningless games such as international friendlies is beyond me. International competitive matches are hard enough to price up, never mind matches that no one cares about, and which might feature any number of substitutes by agreement with both teams so long as the referee knows the maximum number beforehand. If the following report, sent to me once again by Scott, (not a Scot), is to be believed, the maximum number of substitutes isn't the only thing about this game that is known ahead of time.

Foe the football analyst experts out there, Scotland played Nigeria once before, losing 1-2 in 2002. But that was an away game for Nigeria - the game at Craven Cottage is, of course, a home game for them, so all bets are off. In more ways than one.

Police have launched an investigation into attempts to fix a World Cup friendly between Scotland and Nigeria that is due to be played in London on Wednesday evening, the Telegraph can disclose.

Officers from the National Crime Agency, Britain's equivalent of the FBI which investigates serious and organised crime, are understood to have asked Fifa to issue an alert over potential attempts to rig the game.

The football match is one of a sequence of friendlies that serve as a warm up for the World Cup in Brazil next month and is due to be played at Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham Football Club.

The Scottish Football Association has been liaising with the NCA after the game was "red flagged".

Jim Boyce, Britain's most senior football official and Fifa Vice President said that he hoped the police would do “everything in their power to get to the bottom of [attempts to fix the game]”.
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Premiership footballers are expected to play at Wednesday's game, including Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel, Liverpool’s Victor Moses and Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher. There is no suggestion that any of the players are involved.
There are growing fears that World Cup warm-up matches will be targeted by match fixers acting on behalf of illegal betting syndicates in the Far East. In recent months, there have been a series of arrests following suspected attempts to fix matches in the lower English football leagues. There have also been allegations of illicit activity in cricket.
A Singaporean match-fixer claimed in his book that he helped two international sides qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Wilson Raj Perumal, a convicted match-fixer, claims that he assisted Honduras and Nigeria in reaching the World Cup through his activities.
Stuart Regan, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association, said, "We have been liaising with the relevant authorities, the National Crime Agency and Fifa, and will be preparing for the match as normal.”
A spokesman for the National Crime Agency (NCA) said: "The NCA will from time to time provide operational detail necessary for public reassurance purposes. It does not routinely confirm or deny the existence of specific operations or provide ongoing commentary on operational activity".
Fifa has detailed plans to give footballers special briefings on what to do if they are targeted by match-fixers during the World Cup.
For the first time players from all 32 competing nations will be given “integrity sessions” by Fifa officials, when they will be told to report anything suspicious via a special anti-corruption hotline available only to players and referees.
The threat posed to the World Cup by organised crime networks all over the world is being taken so seriously by Fifa that it has put a raft of unprecedented measures in place.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Ralf Mutschke, Fifa’s head of security, also issued a stark warning to English football over match-fixing, saying a series of arrests by the National Crime Agency last year should act as a “wake-up call” about the seriousness of the problem.
Mutschke, the most senior anti-corruption official in the world game, also told the British Government it would succeed only in combating the threat to sporting integrity in the UK if it passed a law specifically to deal with match-fixing, something it has so far refused to do.
Mutschke’s greatest immediate concern was the World Cup, with the former senior German police officer determined to leave nothing to chance.
“Fifa, and in particular myself, has to make the presumption that the World Cup itself is under threat and implement the maximum protection for our competition as we can,” he said. “We are trying to protect the World Cup from fixing and we have set up a pretty wide range of measures to do so.”
As well as integrity briefings, those measures will include intelligence-led targeting of high-risk players, referees and fixtures. “We are also indicating the players, the teams and their histories in fixing and making a risk assessment,” Mutschke said. “Is it a group match, is it the first match, is it the end-of-a-group match, is it a final? This indicates the vulnerability.”
Security agents will appear at each of the 12 World Cup venues, social media will be monitored and scrutiny will be applied to suspicious betting patterns, he said.
Mr Boyce said, "Everyone who loves the game of football will be very concerned with any allegations regarding the serious problem of match-fixing.
"If police have been alerted to the possibility that something may occur tomorrow, I hope they will do everything in their power to get to the bottom of it.
"If anyone is found guilty in any shape or form, they should be banned for life without any form of equivocation.
On Tuesday the director of the European anti crime agency, Europol, said that match fixing was not a “major problem”.
“I still don’t think it’s a major problem in European football, not from what I see,” Rob Wainwright, director of the European anti-crime agency, told reporters at Uefa headquarters.
“But we are sending a message that we want to make sure it doesn’t become one.”
Meanwhile, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan is already preparing for the 2018 World Cup Finals - he's bought the Sky Sports package so he can watch it.


alex said...

Wilson Raj Perumal's book is called 'Kelong Kings' and can be found here:

Caan Berry said...

Hey Cassini, thought provoking posts as ever. Just noticed theirs a link to my old blog, any chance you can replace it with the link for the new one.