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.
“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 …”