Tuesday 17 September 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'Whistleblowers are needed to end this shame on our soccer'


Markets shouldn’t be reacting to fixtures that aren’t even a talking point in their own town. Stock picture
Markets shouldn’t be reacting to fixtures that aren’t even a talking point in their own town. Stock picture
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Match fixing and the League of Ireland: It will take time for the details of the latest investigation to reach the public domain, but the power of the words is devastating.

The stigma attaches a grim perception.

We've been down this road before and the fear is that we will do so again.

Of course, it is dangerous to speculate when it comes to cases of this nature. The authorities have to be completely sure before they begin any disciplinary proceedings.

But speculation arising from betting on League of Ireland matches has become commonplace over the past decade.

Perhaps that blunts the sense of shock around another story under this heading.

If anyone from the Irish football community says they are stunned by allegations of this nature, then they clearly aren't speaking to enough people.

Privately, this is a hot topic. One would have to be suffering from delusion to say that it isn't a cause for concern.

This is a local twist on a worldwide problem.

Gambling and football have an uneasy relationship, and the extent to which a global market can get involved on games in another jurisdiction - regardless of the importance and attendance - is an uncomfortable consequence of modern technology.

Flick on to the social media page of any decent sized League of Ireland club after they suffer a surprising result, and there will invariably be a couple of irate replies from punters across the world that have done their money.

That's harmless stuff in the context of the bigger picture.

Put simply, the First Division, the second tier of football here, has a dubious reputation.

It is a level of the game where most players are either semi-professionals on very small money or amateurs.

The majority of matches are played in front of a couple of hundred spectators.

However, it would appear certain fixtures are of huge interest to punters both at home and abroad.

Asian markets really shouldn't be reacting to fixtures that aren't even a talking point in their own town.

This is the reason the gambling industry is extremely wary of games in this sphere, however unfair that may be on the protagonists.

Regular punters will know some companies have stopped offering odds on certain games, or cut down the range of markets available - specifically those concentrating on the numbers of goals scored.

A red flag is naturally raised when the amounts of cash being staked far exceeds the wages of those involved in the match itself.

If it's all going dramatically in one direction, then companies have an obligation to inform the authorities.

It's seriously sticky territory.

In 2011, Finnish football was rocked by a match-fixing scandal wrapped up in substantial payments coming from Singapore.

There are numerous other examples from around the continent, so Ireland is not alone. Football is fighting a losing battle with this beast.

And it is a challenge for the governing bodies to uncover the true extent of the problem.

There are sophisticated syndicates well aware of the boundaries; technology can cover their movements.

Whistleblowers from within the sport must come forward to explain what's what.

Otherwise, this tawdry show will go on.

Irish Independent

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