Asian football’s match-fixing issues rise again

By Ed Wade.

It is not very often, especially at the top of football, where a match is tampered with for gambling purposes.  It hasn’t been much of an issue, and other sports suffer much worse than football, as players, coaches, and referees all make decisions to change the course of the game for financial benefit. Football isn’t immune though, of course.

The Calciopoli scandal was enough to strip Juventus of two league titles and relegate them. Former Blackpool striker DJ Campbell was accused of match-fixing games and new Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has only recently been given the all clear after being given similar charges from his time with Siena.

Football in general is very well organised and has mostly avoided match-fixing. However, some regions don’t have the same security as Europe. In countries where football is not the national sport, it is sometimes known to be easily influenced by crime gangs.

Asia is where the game is suffering the most. Over the past 10 years there has been one scandal after another. The sport has never been spectacularly popular in the east, which perhaps suggests why it is such an easy target for fixers. Football has long been behind, basketball, badminton and gymnastics in terms of popularity. With such little protection surrounding the game, it has been increasingly easy to influence matches.

What has become especially concerning for the game is just how simple its become to change the outcome of matches. It has also now spread to the top of the game. Korean champions Jeonbuk Motors were the latest team to come under scrutiny in South Korea’s K-League. The team faced Melbourne Victory in the Asian Champions League back in 2013, before it came to light that team scouts for Jeonbuk had bribed the referees. The astonishing thing was, that it took as little as $1,000 dollars.

It was an intriguing story considering where the team were at the time. Jeonbuk were owned by Hyundai Motors, top of the league, outspending everyone, and had highest wage bill. The team was driving forward. They had no real need to get involved with match-fixing, and it highlights how easy and tempting it is. There was no need for the team get involved with scandalous activity, yet they chose to do so because it was such a viable option.

At the moment it looks like there will be no end to the match-fixing. With the sport at an all-time low, football has an incredibly negative view in the public eye. The public know that match-fixing occurs, yet because the game has such little popularity, scandals are rarely covered by the media.

Korean football hero Cha Bum-Kun was named as one of the greatest footballers of the 1980’s by German kicker magazine. He was well-remembered for his thunderous striking ability. This didn’t stop him being and brandished as somebody ‘dishonouring’ football after stating that there should be more thorough investigations into the footballing scandals. This really just highlights the problem in Korea, where there is so much contentious activity, that there are no longer odds available.

Things are spreading though.

Singaporean Tan Seet Eng also known as Dan Tee was accused of being a huge match-fixing syndicate. With operations in Hungary, Italy and Finland, reportedly being involved with 32 different match scandals. Tan had previously served a year’s jail time, for fixing horse races. He was detained in Singapore in 2013 for two years, before being released. Judge Sundaresh Menon claimed that because all the allegations had taken place overseas in Europe, then Tan should not be facing any prosecutions in Singapore.

He said: “The matches fixed, whether or not successfully, all took place beyond our shores. There is nothing in the grounds to indicate, he was working with overseas criminal syndicates or to suggest that such activities are likely to take root in Singapore, by reason of anything he has done or threatens to do.”

It’s quite astonishing really that a man who has former match-fixing allegations was able to get off so lightly. This highlights just how easily brushed aside match-fixing is, showing why it happens more and more. However, until football becomes a more popular sport within the region, it remains to be seen just when match-fixing will be taken seriously.

Given it’s so simple to accomplish and get away with, why would teams, players, or crime syndicates stop doing it?

South Korea’s match-fixing issues are far from being resolved.

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