BERNE, (Reuters) – The match-fixing threat to football could be greatly reduced by the surprisingly simple expedient of making sure that players are paid on time, experts on the subject say.
Although footballers are generally assumed to be fabulously rich, that is only the case for a select few. The vast majority are ordinary salary earners with only a short career in which to build their financial future.
With many clubs outside the big five leagues of England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy in financial difficulties, it is not uncommon for players to have to wait months to get paid.
“Footballers are the victims of match-fixing,” said the international players’ union FIFPro in a recent statement. “They are never the initiator. Players are at the bottom of the match-fixing chart.
“To prevent the match-fixers from getting to the players, the entire football world must create a safe environment for the players.
“That should guarantee that the footballers cannot be found in a situation where he can be tempted to get involved with match-fixing.”
FIFPro has repeatedly complained that players are paid late, or not at all, especially in Eastern Europe. In August, the union also warned its members to think twice before accepting contracts to play for clubs in Cyprus, Turkey and Greece.
“Far too many players – in Eastern Europe more than 40 percent – are being paid late or not at all and many clubs are struggling financially or go bankrupt,” said Bobby Barnes, head of FIFPro’s Europe division on Monday. “Football must find a systemic response to this.”
Last week the Argentine Players’ Union voted that its members would not play in the top flight next year unless outstanding wages were paid by Jan. 4.
FIFPro said that players at Colon, All Boys and Quilmes were all struggling to get paid and that the former had refused to play a match at Atletico Rafaela last month in protest.
FIFPro argues that such problems make players easy pickings for the criminal gangs who make their money from manipulating games and betting on the outcome.
Declan Hill, an investigative journalist who has published two books on match-fixing, pointed out that whereas clubs might dally and delay over paying players, match-fixers could be relied upon to cough up immediately.
“You don’t get these guys (to refuse to fix) by appealing to their ethics,” he told the Play the Game conference in Aarhus, Denmark.
“When Dan Tan says that he will pay you, he actually will – which is more than can be said for many football officials,” added Hill, referring to the Singaporean national also known as Tan Seet Eng who is widely considered as the mastermind behind a global match-fixing organisation and is wanted by Italian police.
Hill said it was also wrong to suggest that young players were more likely to get involved in match fixing.