Bob Moon: The organizers behind the World Cup are meeting in Switzerland today under a cloud of allegations including bribery, involving the ruling soccer organization known as FIFA. But the accusations don’t end there.
As Christopher Werth reports from London, European soccer leagues have been the target of match fixers and illegal gambling circles in Asia.
Christopher Werth: Let’s take the London subway to Wembley Stadium. This past weekend, thousands of fans flocked here for the Super Bowl of European soccer — the Champions League Final.
And across the street is an upscale apartment building that was home to Wilson Raj Perumal. He’s a match fixer from Singapore charged with bribing players in Finland to throw soccer matches.
Declan Hill: What this is is it’s a globalized phenomenon.
Declan Hill is the author of The Fix, about the connection between soccer and organized crime.
Hill: There are these high-placed match fixing brokers based out of Asia, and they’ll fix games anywhere in the world.
He says corruption like this has ruined soccer in China and other parts of Asia. Even though betting is illegal there, match fixing is so widespread, gamblers are taking an ever-greater interest in European leagues.
Hill: Tens, hundreds of millions of gamblers in Asia are now placing bets on sporting events that they never used to.
To understand the scale of the problem, here’s Ronald Noble of the international police organization Interpol at a recent press conference. It ran a sting operation in China and South East Asia during the World Cup last year.
Ronald Noble: During that one month operation, more than 5,000 arrests were made. And illegal gambling dens, which handled over $2 billion worth of bets, were closed. That’s one month.
Interpol and FIFA have announced a $20 million program to combat match fixing.
But Stefan Szymanski, a sports economist at Cass Business School, says there’s a cheaper solution.
Stefan Szymanski: The ideal response to match fixing is to make gambling legal wherever you can, and therefore reduce the opportunities for the match fixers to go unnoticed.
He says that would make it easier to spot people fixing games. But until that happens, Declan Hill says it’s only a matter of time before those match fixers hit the U.S.
In London, I’m Christopher Werth for Marketplace.
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