View Count: 71 |  Publish Date: February 12, 2013
Soccer faces epic fight against match-fixing
SHEILA NORMAN-CULP , The Associated PressPosted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 11:25 AM
ZURICH - Soccer is falling under a cloud of suspicion as never before, sullied by a multibillion-dollar web of match-fixing that is corrupting increasingly larger parts of the worlds most popular sport.
Internet betting, emboldened criminal gangs and even the economic downturn have created conditions that make soccer , or football, as the sport is called around the world , a lucrative target.
Known as the beautiful game for its grace, athleticism and traditions of fair play, soccer is under threat of becoming a dirty game.
Football is in a disastrous state, said Chris Eaton, director of sport integrity at the International Centre for Sport Security. Fixing of matches for criminal gambling fraud purposes is absolutely endemic worldwide ... arrogantly happening daily.
EDITORS NOTE: This story is part of a months-long, multiformat AP examination of how organized crime is corrupting soccer through match-fixing, running over four days this week.
At least 50 nations in 2012 had match-fixing investigations , almost a quarter of the 209 members of FIFA, soccers governing body , involving hundreds of people.
Europol, the European Unions police body, announced last week that it had found 680 suspicious games worldwide since 2008, including 380 in Europe.
Experts interviewed by The Associated Press believe that figure may be low. Sportradar, a company in London that monitors global sports betting, estimates that about 300 soccer games a year in Europe alone could be rigged.
We do not detect it better, Eaton said in an interview with the AP. Theres just more to detect.
Globalization has propelled the fortunes of popular soccer teams like Manchester United and showered millions in TV revenue on clubs that get into tournaments like Europes Champions League.
Criminals have realized that it can be vastly easier to shift gambling profits across borders than it is to move contraband.
These are real criminals , Italian mafia, Chinese gangs, Russian mafia, said Sylvia Schenk, a sports expert with corruption watchdog Transparency International.
Ralf Mutschke, FIFAs security chief, admits that soccer officials had underestimated the scope of match-fixing. He told the AP that realistically, there is no way FIFA can tackle organized crime by itself, saying it needs more help from national law enforcement agencies. From the Sports Desk Latest Sports Stories  Phils biggest problems  Vick wants to be less cautious  Chip Kellys gamble  Kellys QB choices are limited  Bynum provides painful update More Sports » Latest Sports Blogs  Owls Inq: Lunardi: Owls, Explorers barely in NCAA tourney field about 1 hour ago The Phillies Zone: Juan Cruz is only pitcher or catcher missing as Phillies report to Clearwater about 1 hour ago Bleacher Report Why the Eagles Should Consider Trading for Percy Harvin Predictions for Phillies’ Opening-Day 25-Man Roster Phillies Prospects to Watch in Spring Training Eagles Pre-Combine 7-Round Mock Draft Flyers Salary Cap Dilemma for Next Season

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