07 April, 2008

How Much for your Integrity?

As we reported a little while ago, most league matches in Africa are fixed in one way or another. Some say it adds an interesting extra dimension to domestic competition, while others suggest that it maybe devalues a team’s achievement when they win things based on their organized crime/government monetary backing. That debate however is for another time. The point is that European football fans like to think that corruption and bribes only take place in the other-worldly and backwards place that is Africa; it’s nice and far away so it has nothing civilized in common with us nice, clever developed countries. Two years ago though, a major scandal ripped through the Italian top flight and the second tier, Serie B. Evidence was uncovered by Italian police implicating league champions Juventus, and other major teams including A.C. Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina, in match-fixing when a number of telephone interceptions showed a thick network of relations between team managers and referee organisations. In the end only Juventus were truly punished hard, suffering relegation to Serie B, but all the other teams involved received point deductions for the following season, ranging between 3 and 15 based on the perceived severity of their involvement in the conspiracy. The last time such an incident had occurred in Serie A was way back 1980 when Milan and Lazio were relegated down a division, but until 2006, all thoughts of such backhand dealings still going on had been banished.
Now a similar controversy has reared its ugly head on our fine shores, with major revelations in the press over the weekend that a former Premier League star fixed a match to pay off a £50,000 gambling debt. Reportedly the unnamed ex-pro agreed to get himself sent off and also persuade three team-mates to get themselves booked as well. The gambling addict owed the cash to a private bookie (think Fat Tony from The Simpsons) but was told that the debt would be wiped out if he agreed to fix the match. His team subsequently lost the game, and therefore the mysterious player didn’t have any unfortunate accidents involving metal staircases or baseball bats.

The word is that the game in question took place some time within the last two years, but thus far no other information is available. The star involved then sought treatment for his addiction, and was said to be “ashamed and full of remorse” according to a similarly anonymous Sun informant. The astonishing confession occurred last week at a seminar on gambling at the Sporting Chance clinic in Hampshire, a centre founded by ex-Arsenal legend Tony Adams for sports stars battling addictions.

The source at the event further told of a lower division player who attempted suicide after racking up a £37,000 debt, while other disclosures supposedly implicated many current Premier League stars fighting cocaine addictions without the knowledge of their clubs. Chief executive Peter Kay (no not that one) said yesterday: “Neither I nor Sporting Chance are responsible for what an ex-client or client might say, but if you are asking whether I’m aware of this case, the answer is yes. I don’t believe the card business is widespread, but it has happened to my knowledge on several occasions,” he added candidly.

Helpfully The Sun is offering you a nice juicy cash reward should you want to shop this remorseful and clearly troubled ex-player to them. I’m not going to encourage that kind of behaviour by printing their contact details, but should you know any more info, give STT the tip-off first eh. We can’t promise you money, or a nice moody photo of yourself alongside the published story, but you should be safe in knowledge that you aren’t selling your soul.