Murdered Bikers, IOC/FIFA and Dead Men Walking

The links between organized crime bike gangs and the IOC/FIFA

Okay, everyone calm down. This blog is not about Thomas Bach’s previously unknown (and utterly fictional) history as a Hells Angels member or Sepp Blatter’s non-role as a Bandido drug enforcer. Rather it is about the reason why those nine motorcycle gang members were murdered in Waco, Texas and how it is linked to a key issue around international sports organizations.

Brand protection.

The superficial reason for the killings last weekend was the potent mixture of alcohol and testosterone. One restaurant. Three biker gangs. They were all there to ‘talk’ but someone had one beer too many and suddenly the shooting started. It was all pretty foreseeable.

However, the reason that the bikers had gathered in the restaurant is the motivation behind the massacre. The Bandidos are the biggest biker gang in Texas. In fact, they are so big they will not allow anyone else to ‘patch’ in their state. Meaning no other biker gang cannot put on their shirt badges the word – ‘Texas’. Other biker gangs are growing and want the freedom to be able to enter Texas wearing their patches.

This is a key issue for bikers. Their patches are their brands. Their brands promise violence and retribution. They do not want that brand weakened by allowing anyone else on their territory. This may not seem a good brand message to a law-abiding member of the community, but to anyone in the drug trade it is an important commercial advantage.

In the early 2000s, there was a case examined by the academic expert in organized crime Diego Gambetta. A man, unconnected with the bikers, had started wearing a Hells Angels badge in a small town in British Columbia. He began to get a reputation as a ‘hard’ man. So the Hells Angels took him to a motel and tortured him.

It was a message of extreme violence and it served its purpose. No one else in B.C. would ever wear – and therefore weaken – the brand of the Hell’s Angels.

It is exactly the same thing that happens (minus the torture) in the human-rights-free-zones around major sporting events. The brands ‘Olympics’ or ‘FIFA World Cup’ are jealously guarded. Any other brands are ruthless thrown out or suppressed. The reason why the sports organizations do this is because their commercial sponsors pay a lot of money to link their brands to the major sporting events.

In a wonderful move this week, the maverick business owner of the Australian sporting goods company Skins, Jamie Fuller launched a full-scale attack on these sponsors. He pointed out that their purported commercial values were entirely at odds with the reality of the sports world. Along with the British investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, Fuller produced a video showing the appalling treatment of migrant workers in the Qatar World Cup stadium building projects. Then they contrast the images and interviews of the impoverished workers with the lofty statement of values of FIFA’s sponsors Adidas, Coca-Cola and McDonalds. It makes for compelling viewing.

More importantly, it may be the beginning of the revolution that the sports world has been waiting for. If Skins can get sponsors to stop supporting corruption and the complicit behavior in some sports organizations, than international sports can start to get the moral values it deserves.

Dead Men Walking Case 1

In case you missed it, there was – yet again – a controversy surrounding alleged match-fixing in Turkish football. Last week, Genclerbirligi was playing Galatasaray. The game seemed to be heading for 0-0 draw. When the goalkeeper of Genclerbirligi seemed to pull back his arm to allow a goal for Galatasaray. Galatasaray won the game and stayed top of the league.

Cue outcry from millions of Turkish football fans claiming that the game had been fixed. Leading the charge were the Fenerbahce supporters whose team is just behind Galatasaray in the league standings.

For Fenerbahce supporters to complain about match-fixing takes hypocrisy to a breath-taking level. This is the team whose CEO was convicted in separate court trials and in international sporting bodies of fixing just about everything he could in Turkish football. Now the Fenerbahce power-elite is trying to fix the Turkish media, the judiciary and the political system to over-turn his verdict.

And the Fenerbahce fans are complaining about one goal?

Crikey.

Really, what this latest incident is about is the painful, preventable death of Turkish football. Millions of people believe that that goal scored by Galatasaray was fixed: millions of people believe that it was simply a mistake. What no one doubts is that it could have been fixed. When you have that happening – the end is nigh for a sport. When you cannot believe that the sport is not being played honestly, then it will slowly die.

Dead Men Walking Case 2

This is serious.

This week, police swooped in and arrested 50 people in a major match-fixing case in Southern Italy.

The Italian police arrested players, coaches and referees: but they also arrested team owners and a number of other senior executives. In their press conference they echoed my oft-repeated words that fixing was a ‘system of business’ in Italian football.

The police claim that there was a fixing network of 30-teams in the Lega Pro (effectively the fourth-tier of professional football and the top amateur level). This network was governed by the mafia and the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta with links to financial middle men in Malta, Serbia and backers in China and Russia.

Many of the arrested have not had their day in court and may be innocent. However, even now there are some key lessons to learn from this case.

1) The Singaporeans/Malaysians have been by-passed.

This is bad. It means that the cancer of modern-day match-fixing has metastasized.

The current manifestation of match-fixing has two stages.

The first is the fixing of the actual game by the players, referees or team executives.

The second stage is getting enough money onto to the globalised sports gambling market to make a large profit from the fixed games.

In this second stage, the Singaporean/Malaysians – Dan Tan, Uncle Frankie, etc – were the main conduit for the last two decades. There were other pretenders but they did not have their global reach or their skill (Ye Zheyun in the Belgian Premier League, for example, was so over-the-top that he burned out after only 18-months of fixing games there). The Singaporean/Malaysians had the talent and networks to get large sums of money unnoticed onto the Asian gambling market.

What the Italian police are describing is a completely different network with gambling conduits coming out of Italy going through runners in Malta, Serbia and going on to Russia and China.

We had a brief chance to shut down modern-day match-fixing by truly stopping the Singaporeans/Malaysians. The Singaporeans could have actually put Tan on trial. They could have got him to reveal his big backers. They could have arrested them and sent a message around the world that match-fixing would not be tolerated.  They did not do so.

Now the first stage fixers have set up other networks. This is not the only one.

It means the job of saving sports will be much, much more difficult

2) The Anti-Match-Fixing Industry failed. A few months, in one of those pamphlets that they must regret, Transparency International claimed that their Staying on Side campaign was leading the charge against match-fixing in Italy. Much of their campaign focused on ‘educating’ the players. They issued the usual clichés like:

“The education component focuses on developing a culture of integrity among players about all aspects of behaviour, including how to deal responsibly with money.”

What the TI consultants missed is that any ‘education’ of players forced to play in such a deeply corrupt league is a painful charade that only teaches players to be hypocrites.

This latest wave of arrests shows that European police understand what the professional anti-match-fixing industry does not: fixing is not the prevail of ‘uneducated’ or ‘unethical’ players but is system deeply entrenched in some sports leagues. Those leagues should be shut down completely and cleaned-out (if possible) before being allowed to continue.

**

Video on the Skins campaign against FIFA sponsors at: http://www.newfifanow.org/

Article and video on the alleged dubious goal in Turkey at: http://tinyurl.com/lv8wfw3

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One thought on “Murdered Bikers, IOC/FIFA and Dead Men Walking”

  1. J says:

    Hi Dec! Julie Gess here, saying “hi”. Thought of you this morning as I read about US indicting FIFA officials. Where are you? Ever get to DC, Maine or nearby? Drop me a line [email protected]. Cheers! Julie

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