Now that the Super Bowl is over and your friends are busy conspiring about the suspicious no-calls against San Francisco, it's time to talk real football. Like, European football, or "soccer," and just how insanely corrupt it is.
Europol, the E.U.'s joint police force, announced the conclusion of a years-long investigation into soccer-match fixing on Monday, and the results are a little troubling — and the source of the scandal perhaps even more troubling still. Without singling out one specific match or perpetrator, Europol said they found evidence of match fixing or bribery in a total of 680 matches across Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as South and Central America. (So, no one in the MLS is fixing matches? Hooray, MLS!) In total, there were 425 match officials, club officials, players, and crooks cited in the report, from as many as 15 different countries, in an investigation that spanned from 2008 to the present.
Probably the most concerning point of the investigation is how important some of the tainted matches were. Europol said they found evidence of corruption in qualifying games for the World Cup and for the UEFA European Football Championship, as well as two Champions League matches. The Champions League is an annual tournament for the best domestic club teams in Europe. So, win your country's league and your team qualifies for the Champion's League. The European Football Championship is a similar tournament for Europe's national teams. And the World Cup is the World Cup.
"This is a sad day for European football, and more evidence of the corrupting influence of organized crime," said Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, who compared the potential effects of the scandal to what doping did to cycling.
Officials said the corruption can all be traced back to a single source: a global organized crime syndicate based out of Asia, led by a man named Dan Tan, the New York Times reported. (Dan Tan just sounds like the name of the head of a global crime syndicate, doesn't it?) Officials said they know of at least 50 suspects in 10 different countries involved with the group. An extradition request was filed for Tan to be transported to Europe to face fraud and bribery charges.
The on-the-books financials behind the bribery and betting allegations don't look that impressive at first. The probe was only able to uncover $10.9 million in betting profits and $2.7 million in bribes to players and officials. But most believe those numbers are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and that the problem and numbers run much deeper. Those are just numbers they could prove with the paper trail they had access to.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.