The High-Risk Week for the UEFA Champions League
This is the week for the Champions League fixes.
The two matches to watch carefully (I do not say that they will be fixed, I am simply red-flagging the games) are Turkish champions Besiktas versus perennial no-hopers Dynamo Kiev and Juventus versus Dinamo Zagreb. Yes, the same Dinamo Zagreb of the infamous winking 7-1 loss to Olympique de Lyon in the same round of the Champions League in 2011.
The conditions that make me red-flag these games are:
1) Neither of the Dinamo teams have anything to play for in these matches. The great football academic Stefan Szymanski once wrote of the “disparity in desire” that gives way to potential fixing. This round in the Champions League where one team has everything to play for (Besiktas can still qualify for the next round, Juventus plays for next round advantage) and the other team nothing is an open door to fixing.
2) This is not potential gambling match-fixing but arrangements of the kind that has been around in European football since at least the 1980s (Bernard Tapie, et al).
Finally, this kind of potential fixing is very easy to stop. Tournament incentives are the way to do it. Leandro Shara in Chile is one of the world’s leading experts in structuring tournaments and leagues to stop arrangement fixing. If I were the new FIFA head of security it would be my first task to get him (or a similar expert) to go through all tournaments to ensure that this kind of disparity of desire is eliminated as much as possible.