Earlier this week, UK terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4 premiered “Dispatches : How To Fix A Football Match”, a collaboration with The Telegraph that purported to blow the lid off gambling-influenced soccer fraud, with content including but not limited to, “the conviction of match fixers who tried to infiltrate the English game and those offering to help fix a match involving a team competing in the World Cup.” The Independent’s Andrew Tong was somewhat less than blown away, writing, “they say that match-fixing is a bad thing, but frankly it may be the only way the England football team will ever win a major tournament .”
It was a shocking programme. One man claimed to have fixed five friendlies before the last World Cup in South Africa by suggesting to the country’s federation that he would pay all the fees and expenses of the referees and linesmen. Hmm, nothing dodgy about that at all.
But that was just the start: we heard of matches with no fans; games involving fake national teams; fixing entire tournaments at Under-18 level with the gangs shouting instructions to the players from the stands; and even betting on games that simply didn’t exist even though a stadium would be hired and a commentary team commissioned.
Strangely, however, the idea of pundits talking a load of old nonsense about nothing in particular sounds quite familiar.