Irish football embroiled in match-fixing bet scandal
THE FAI and the Government last night held urgent talks as Ireland became embroiled in the serious match-fixing allegations rocking the football world.
The betting scandal went global as secret recordings revealed an alleged fixer talking about World Cup qualification matches, with Ireland specifically mentioned.
The Singaporean national made the suggestion in a secretly recorded meeting in Manchester where he said that he had organised football fixtures around the world.
He made claims ranging from league games to international matches and World Cup qualifiers. "I do Australia, Scotland, Ireland, Europe, World Cup, World Cup qualifier," he said.
His comments have hugely expanded an investigation that originally focused on Asian match-fixers who concentrated on the English lower leagues.
Two men are due to appear in court today in England after being charged with fraud in the wake of revelations about alleged match-fixing.
Sports Minister Michael Ring told the Irish Independent: "Match-fixing in any sport is a hugely serious issue and it must be addressed immediately if discovered in an Irish context. The Department of Sport has spoken to the FAI which confirmed that no issues have been raised about such activity in Ireland by Europol, Interpol or UEFA.
"However, should any evidence emerge to the contrary, the Government will provide immediate assistance. We will not tolerate this in Irish sport."
The FAI earlier spoke with officials at the English FA after Ireland was brought into the discussion about match-fixing. "The FA told us they don't believe there is Irish involvement at this stage, but we'll have to keep an eye on it and watch it," said a spokesperson from the FAI.
In recent years, the Irish football authorities have worked closely with UEFA, FIFA and Interpol as part of the global attempt to curb the influence of betting.
Several League of Ireland games have come under suspicion, with the authorities conscious that large amounts of money are being staked on Irish football from abroad.
They are in regular contact with a special Interpol unit concentrating solely on the issue, but are waiting for more information to emerge from the latest allegations.
The 'Daily Telegraph' launched an investigation into match fixing after being approached by an investigator with links to FIFA who said that English games were being targeted by Asian betting syndicates.
Material collected by the newspaper was handed to the UK police earlier this month.
The alleged fixer arrested earlier this week had claimed that he had "bought" World Cup games as well as matches in Europe and Australia.
During undercover meetings recorded in Manchester, the fixer told a former FIFA investigator that he could pay referees and players to manipulate the results of games. And during the course of the conversations about English matches, the fixer also said he could rig matches "all over" the world -- except in Singapore where the penalties are very high.
"I do Australia, Scotland. Ireland. Europe. World Cup. World Cup qualifier," he said.
"What, the World Cup?", asked the investigator.
"At least, at least 15," the alleged fixer claimed. "I bought the match."
The Singaporean national claimed that he controlled one African country's "whole team".
The fixer said he worked closely with a registered FIFA agent, which meant he could organise matches throughout the world.
In a series of secretly recorded conversations in England, the alleged fixer was asked how the trade worked.
"I'm (the) one who's sending money... he can organise any match around the world ... .that's the reason why I say I can organise any game, any tournament ... " In a later meeting, the fixer boasted about the teams he could use to control matches in Europe. "I got team in Belgium. France as well I got," said the alleged fixer.
"Good teams. Their country, most of these place their salaries are very low... Germany, the players, they pay high ... France not so high. Very moderate. But Finland, Belgium, Sweden, all everybody all [earn] very less."
Northern Ireland's Jim Boyce, the vice president of FIFA, said: "FIFA is fully aware match-fixing is a very serious problem and is one that has to be tackled at the very highest level. Anyone found guilty will be banned for life -- there's absolutely no doubt about that.
"FIFA has many investigators working throughout the world to try to erode the game of this cancer. It has got to be stamped out."
Bookies Paddy Power told the Irish Independent that an Ireland World Cup game could attract hundreds of thousands of euros in bets.
But unusual betting patterns -- the first sign that "a fix " is on -- are very rare in this country. "If there is something unusual, even something small which sometimes happens, we report our concerns to the European Sports Security Association (ESSA)."
But he said that betting on Irish football is small in terms of their overall business.However, the revelations of match fixing revealed in the last 48 hours were a wake up call for the sport. "We would hope that the book is thrown at these people. Integrity in sport is a cornerstone of our business," he said.
The two men who were charged in England were named as Chann Sankaran (33) a Singaporean national and Krishna Sanjey Ganeshan (43) who has dual UK and Singaporean nationality.
They are accused of conspiring to defraud bookmakers by influencing the course of football matches and placing bets. At least three players and a football agent, reported as former Premier League player Delroy Facey, who had been in custody since earlier this week, were bailed as the police said the investigation continued.
Daniel McDonnell, Claire Newell and Holly Watt