Last week, Europol, the European Union’s police force, dropped a bomb on the soccer world when it said that an investigation into game-fixing had found some 680 “suspicious” games worldwide since 2008, including 380 in Europe. However, a new report from The Associated Press says that that figure may be way too low.
For instance, Sportradar, a London-based company that monitors sports betting, believes that nearly 300 games in Europe per year could be rigged. As the report says, criminals have found that it is much easier and more lucrative to shift gambling profits across borders than drugs, weapons or other contraband. FIFA has estimated that organized crime takes in as much as $15 billion per year thanks to game-fixing.
''Football is in a disastrous state,''Chris Eaton, director of sport integrity at the International Centre for Sport Security, says. ''Fixing of matches for criminal gambling fraud purposes is absolutely endemic worldwide ... arrogantly happening daily.'' Adds Sylvia Schenk of Transparency International, a corruption watchdog: ''These are real criminals - Italian mafia, Chinese gangs, Russian mafia.''
As Ralf Mutschke, FIFA's security chief, says, ''realistically, there is no way'' FIFA can tackle organized crime by itself. It needs help—a lot more help—from national law enforcement agencies.