Football scandal not surprising, scale of investigation is
THE spectre of match-fixing has been hanging over football for a number of years, so I am not surprised about the latest scandal to hit the game.
What I am surprised about is the scale of the investigation and the number of potential matches which might now have proved to have been fixed, and to what extent.
Uefa president Michel Platini hit the nail on the head recently when he issued a warning about match-fixing across the football world before the Europol probe was revealed.
"If tomorrow, we go watch a game already knowing the outcome, football is dead," he said.
"Racism, violence do not affect just soccer but the public. On the other hand, we're directly concerned by match-fixing. For me, this is the big shame."
Platini is right that it is the big shame, but what can the football world's governing bodies do about it, especially if crime syndicates are, as reported, involved to the extent they are?
Imagine if you were a player or official and you were approached by a Triad member or someone from the Mafia who asked you to throw a game or make a decision to change the course of a match.
If, as apparently happened in the spot-fixing scandal involving Pakistani cricketer Mohammad Amir, threats were made to families of those involved, what could they do?
I certainly would not like to be put in that position and I don't know how I would act if it were me who was asked to fix a game and a threat was made to my family.
Now I am not saying that happens all the time but there are obviously some unsavoury characters involved in the game at all levels who would take the money and run.
While, of course, the powers that be should be targeting the criminal gangs, that should really be left to the police authorities to sort out.
Uefa and Fifa should be doing the best they possibly can to keep fixing out of football.
Coincidentally, whistleblowers can now report allegations of corruption and match fixing in world soccer at a long-promised website which has been launched by FIFA.
Alleged infringements of FIFA's Code of Ethics reported at the site will directly reach its lead ethics prosecutor, Michael Garcia, football's governing body says.
This has to be a good thing but it will not work if countries' football associations do not do their bit to keep corruption out of the game.
It seems that Football Federation Australia is doing its best to keep the scourge of match-fixing out of this country after it signed a deal last month to have betting patterns on A-League games monitored around the world to pick up suspect movements.
The company, Sportradar, works with bodies such as Uefa and many of the leading European Football Associations to track where and how bets are placed on games.
In theory, a sudden amount of money placed on a particular outcome in an A-League game would be picked up and the FFA alerted.
But that does not mean that the odd case can slip through the net.
Former top referee Matthew Breeze was certain no Australian referee would be successfully targeted, saying: "I don't think the public realises the importance referees here place on their integrity and their commitment to the job. We know that if one referee even considered such a move it would destroy trust at every level. We make mistakes, sure, but with absolute integrity."
While that is good to hear, the top officials in football in this country have to keep vigilant otherwise it could become a blight on the game Down Under and nobody wants that.