Football must exercise caution with VPL match-fixing scandal
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David Gallop CEO of Football Federation Australia (FFA) looks on during a press conference. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Across Europe the phrase ‘match-fixing’ in football continues to develop itself as common terminology and now in our own backyard the problem has reared its ugly head in shocking circumstances.
A team that competes in the Victorian Premier League has orchestrated Australia’s largest match-fixing scandal.
The team in question, bottom-placed Southern Stars, have won just one match from a possible 21 and have a goal difference of minus 43.
Does this insinuate a much larger problem at hand?
Before the examination of a truly worrying incident in Australian sporting history, lets get the facts straight.
In short, this is a version of the events that have transpired.
The Victorian Police began a month ago after information from Swiss-based sports and betting data intelligence agency Sportradar came to light that was passed onto Football Federation Australia.
Six men have been charged, including the head coach and a goalkeeper.
The man at the centre of the controversy is 45-year-old Malaysian citizen, Gerry Gsubramaniam.
The Clayton South resident has been accused with acting as the team’s direct contact for the players of the Southern Stars.
Effectively, his role was to make contact with the players and give advice on how members of the team were to perform.
An out-of-sessions court hearing on Sunday night saw him charged with a total of 10 offences, including five of engaging in conduct that corrupts or could corrupt the outcome of a betting event.
With the aforementioned information in mind, what does this all mean for the National Premier League competitions and the A-League?
FFA chief executive David Gallop stated yesterday that the “integrity of football is paramount” and the FFA was “determined to keep football clean”.
Strong words from our country’s leading authoritative figure, and sentiment that must be resonated by those that are involved in sport at all levels.
The FFA have acted reacted to the situation with great aplomb, who alerted the police within 24 hours of the receiving an alert from Sportsradar.
However, pressing questions will be asked whether the FFA could have done more in conjunction with Football Federation Victoria to prevent such an act.
But in an environment with very little fanfare and public attention, one can recognise why the betting ring targeted a relatively small-scale team and competition.
It will no doubt raise serious concerns about whether this practice is widespread.
Could it potentially trigger a comprehensive investigation into any of the country’s leading sports?
Reserving judgment for now is imperative.
It’s no time to panic and suggest that crimes of this nature are being committed at the higher end of the scale, however, it won’t allay those fears that maybe this is only the beginning of a deep-rooted problem.
Overseas in Europe we have seen the game experience a bout of disrepute.
In late 2009 the problem began to surface, with no fewer than 200 games under match-fixing investigation, and it’s an issue that continues to raise alarm bells and threaten the very fabric of the game.
The Serie A endured the ignominy of match-fixing and more recently Turkish giants Fenerbache have been banned from two years of European competition and will experience a similar fate.
Disturbing examples but commonly dismissed as something that won’t affect our own local product, but regrettably it has now, regardless of the club’s stature.
With the A-League season just under a month away what implications, if any, will it have for the nation’s premier competition?
At the moment, the dust needs to settle and judicial action must run due course before any sweeping assumptions are made.
Naturally the media and authorities will be drawn to pushing for more assertive action in the higher reaches of the code.
But for now, one can only hope that when more comes to light that the integrity of the sport remains intact.
Caution for now and questions later.
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