Assertions by authorities that tackling match-fixing in soccer will be a long and complex process have been rejected by a leading expert on corruption in the game, who says the arrest of one person will make a difference.
Declan Hill, an author and investigative journalist, who believes gangs avoid detection by fixing the betting exchanges as well as matches, has called on authorities to arrest Dan Tan, who he says is an alleged major “fixer” in Singapore.
“There’s an effort to say that taking on match-fixing is a complicated, sophisticated activity that involves taking on dark, mysterious figures,” Hill, the author of The Fix: Soccer and Organised Crime, said in an interview. “We know the fixer. There’s one guy who helped fix games in over 50 countries in the world. This is Finnish police, the Hungarian police, the German police, the Italian police saying this. This is over 800 pages of the Cremona public prosecutor’s report [from the most recent Italian match-fixing scandal] that not only names the man and gives his birth date, it has his phone records, it talks about where he was, it talks about everything.”
Singaporean police said in a statement: “The authorities in Singapore are assisting the Italian authorities through Interpol in their investigations into an international match-fixing syndicate that purportedly involves a Singaporean, Dan Tan Seet Eng, and have provided information requested by the National Central Bureau [NCB] Rome.”
Dan Tan could not be reached for comment.
Hill appeared this month at a match-fixing conference in Rome attended by international soccer and police representatives, as well as gambling experts.
“You have the biggest sporting organizations in the world and some of the biggest police agencies across Europe saying this is the man who has fixed games in dozens of different countries, including Singapore. You’d think that would be enough,” Hill said. “Next year, FIFA is opening up a US$20 million anti-match-fixing education center [in Interpol’s new Global Complex] in Singapore. I’m boggled that anyone would think about doing that in a jurisdiction … [with possibly the] central international match-fixer of our time.”
European governing body UEFA says its early-warning system to combat match-fixing shows only 0.7 percent of the 32,000 matches monitored per year are fixed and they are almost exclusively lower-division matches.
However, Hill argues the systems used by FIFA and UEFA to track suspicious activity on the betting markets would not detect scams by Asian gangs that operate across Europe.
UEFA general-secretary Gianni Infantino said at the Rome conference that his organization was “not geared up to fight criminality,” but FIFA counterpart Jerome Valcke said no UEFA Champions League or World Cup matches were fixed.
“Early-warning systems are based on the premise that the fixers are stupid. They’re not. The fixers spend as much time working out how to fix the gambling markets — so that nobody notices what they’re doing — as they do fixing the actual games,” Hill said. “The bigger the game, the easier it is to fix the gambling market. Ninety to 95 percent of the money laid on a fix by any professional fixer is on the Asian market, and it’s with a series of agents who are essentially local and regional bookies that go all the way to a couple of really big companies, and they’re not providing information to the warning system. Everyone inside football knows there’s a massive problem in June, July and August in the [UEFA] Champions League [qualifying rounds].”
“July is a peak season for fixers because you have a market that is betting 365 [days of the year], 24 hours a day, but from June to early August there’s very little European football,” he said.
The big tournaments could also be affected.
“They don’t know based on their early-warning system whether there’s fixing in the World Cup or the [UEFA] Champions League, because there’s too much liquidity — too much money being placed on a game,” Hill said. “Betfair [an Internet betting exchange based in London] for last year’s [UEFA] Champions League final had a liquidity of ￡1 billion [US$1.59 billion]. Multiply Betfair by 60 or 80 and you’ve got tens of billions on one game. The only thing they [UEFA] have is a system that doesn’t collect information effectively for the big games and doesn’t take any information if the fixers are intelligent. So to suggest that there’s only less than 1 percent of European matches across UEFA being fixed is a total fantasy.”