Match fixing is nothing new to sports; the next scandal is always out there.
But it’s the scale of this one that deserves our attention, not to mention connection to a few games at global soccer’s very highest levels.
Europol, the European Union’s joint police element, announced today that it has found 680 matches deserving of suspicion. The worst part: those matches include contests in the World Cup, matches in European Championship qualifiers and at least two contests in UEFA’s Champions League.
About 300 of those were in Africa, Asia, South America and Central America. Overall, as many as 425 officials, players and criminals are suspected of involvement.
Most of the past scandals in soccer have been contained to fairly obscure leagues or to lower tier associations, like the 2009 betting scandal. That one did involve three matches in the Champions League qualifying rounds, but most of the corruptions were in Eastern European leagues, and in the lower German divisions.
Europol has yet to begin revealing the suspected players, clubs or officials, but consider this ominous warning from German investigator Friedhelm Althans: “This is the tip of the iceberg.”
As details remain scarce, we don’t know the percentage of matches in this round of match-fixing allegations remain in the lower leagues. Nor do we know if the Champions League matches mentioned are from early qualifying rounds as before (which usually involve lower-profile clubs) or matches further along, when the name clubs are front-and-center.