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Former Bolton striker among six arrested in English match-fixing investigation

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When news of a match-fixing scandal hit England on Wednesday, there was the promise of a former Premier League player being linked to the case. It didn’t take long for The Telegraph to identify that player as former Bolton Wanderer Delroy Facey, with three other unnamed current players also arrested.

Facey played 14 games in the Premier League with the Trotters, part of a 16-year career that spanned 14 different clubs. Now the 33-year-old former Granada international has become the face of an investigation that the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency described as a Singapore-based syndicate trying to fix games in English soccer.

From the NCA:

“Six men have been arrested across the country as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into alleged football match fixing.

The focus of the operation is a suspected international illegal betting syndicate. The NCA is working closely with the Gambling Commission and the Football Association.”

On Thursday, charges were officially brought against two of the six men. A seventh man was also arrested in connection with the case.

Given the scope the NCA implies, we should expect more arrests. There’ll certainly be more charges, yet as dramatic as the story is, the most compelling angle may be geography, not scope. Despite the warnings people like Declan Hill have raised over the last five years, the general perception around match-fixing sees it as a very Eastern European or Asian phenomenon. The stability (and affluence) of Western European soccer made those leagues less susceptible to match-fixing, that perception held.

While that may be true, it’s not an absolute, as the NCA’s investigation implies. Places like England, Germany, Spain (and the U.S.) are not immune to a problem that seems to touch so many aspects of the sport. While there’s a tendency to see issues like match-fixing, age cheating, racism, and crowd violence as other world problems, they’re issues that still touch the highest levels of the game.

As Graham MacAree at SBNation put it, “now the FA are just like everyone else, trying to weed out match fixing rather than rather illogically hoping it wouldn’t be able to establish itself. It’s no longer someone else’s problem …”

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia

Jurgen Klopp announced as new Liverpool manager

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
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Enough with the speculation and reports already, because it’s finally officially official: Jurgen Klopp has been appointed the newest manager of Liverpool Football Club, the Merseyside club announced on Thursday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Klopp will be unveiled to the world at an introductory press conference at Anfield on Friday.

According to early reports, Klopp’s three-year contract could pay him as much as $10 million per season.

[ QUOTE KING: Top 10 “Klopp-isms” from his time at Dortmund ]

The 48-year-old German has been out of work since stepping down at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund following a seventh-place finish to the 2014-15 season. Klopp’s seven seasons in charge of Dortmund weren’t without success and silverware, though, as he led Der BVB to back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012, a German Cup triumph in 2012 and a UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2013.

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright will be at Anfield on Friday for Klopp’s unveiling, so be sure to follow JPW on Twitter and check back to PST for wall-to-wall coverage of Klopp’s first press conference as Liverpool manager.