With less than two weeks to go before the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s biggest sports event has had a dark cloud cast over it by a confidential FIFA report, published by the New York Times. The 44 page internal report detailed how bettors influenced the outcome of several matches during the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa, including the corruption of referees and other officials.
The report shows how vulnerable the World Cup has become in the light of global match fixing at very high levels of the game.
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Interviewing a wide range of interest parties, such as gamblers, referees and officials in countries such as England, South Africa and Finland, the New York Times reporter examines the many issues that could affect the integrity of the 2014 event, which is expected to raise a record $4 billion in revenue from ticket sales, TV rights and sponsorship deals.
The FIFA report, which was, until now, left unpublished, asks whether it is possible that listed matches during the South African World Cup were fixed.
“On the balance of probabilities, yes,” it replies.
The report lists a number of incidents where match fixing and corruption took place. For example, it was found that Ibrahim Chaibou, a referee from Nigeria, made suspect handball calls during a friendly match played between South Africa and Guatemala in Polokwane. Chaibou also allegedly brought a bag filled with thousands of dollars in $100 notes.
At least five matches were manipulated during the 2010 World Cup, claims the report, while a total of 15 were targeted.
Most worrying was the actions of the Singapore based company, Football 4U who supplied referees and officials to be used during the World Cup but was, as it turns out, a front for a match rigging group. FIFA made deals with the firm for at least five matches, signing contracts that were “so very rudimentary as to be commercially laughable”, according to the report. It also accuses South African officials to be “easily duped or extremely foolish” to strike deals with Football 4U.
South African officials were drawn to signing contracts with Football 4U which provided rock bottom prices, including offers to pay the referees’ travel and match fees – a fact that saved the football federation millions of Rands.