Dead Men Walking
Let it be said here for the first time. Let this warning go out clearly and strongly across the sporting world.
The Italian and Turkish football leagues are dead-men walking.
In 2010, when I testified before the Parliamentary Committee of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, I spoke about the ‘cancer of match-fixing that has entered European football leagues’.
Now, some of those patients have died.
There is no hope for the sport, as it exists in its present form, in these countries.
The evidence is clear and compelling. In Turkey, almost the entire sporting and political establishment has bent over backwards – repealing laws, dismissing police investigations and judicial decisions – to protect top teams and influential businessmen who were caught match-fixing.
This summer in Italy, police officials announced that more than forty teams are under investigation for money-laundering. More importantly, these same police officials are also investigating over-twenty Italian teams for match-fixing. There are only seventy-five clubs in the top four divisions, so this is a high proportion of the total number of all football clubs under investigation for some form of corruption. These numbers indicate that it is systemic way of doing business, not isolated, individual cases of bribery.
Again, the attitude of the domestic sports league (the Italian FA) has been paltry at best. Bari, one of the teams involved in the fixing scandal, was punished by having one-point deducted. One-point! A team loses more points from having a star player out with a hamstring injury. One-point for involvement in fixing scandal is an open invitation for clubs, teams and players to carry on their activities.
The former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said that the entire league should be suspended, cleaned-up and then re-started. Like much good sense in Italy, his suggestion was ignored.
How will the ‘death’ of these leagues occur?
It will not be a fast death. It will be a slow, lingering, awful embarrassment of an end for Turkish and Italian football.
The habits, passions and longings of tens-of-millions of football fans do not stop overnight. But gradually there will be too many strange decisions; too many odd results; followed by the too-predictable nature of the league table at the end of the season (the richest teams will always win). The credibility of the sport will go and fans will simply lose interest.
In five years, Turkish and Italian football will look like most current-day Asian football leagues where there are a few top-teams who when they play each other get respectable crowds and everyone else plays in front of nearly-empty stadiums. The fans will begin to watch foreign leagues and other sports.
So, a note to all other football fans in all other countries. I have been a prophet of bad news since 2005 when I stood and spoke openly for the first time about the wave of match-fixing that would hit International and European football. Few believed me then. They have been proved wrong with the numerous police investigations and judicial decisions showing hundreds of International and European football games have been fixed.
Do not ignore what I am saying now. I take no pleasure in saying these things, but if you want to pass sport on to your children you need to take action now. Stay tuned to this site over the next few months and I will outline how we can prevent the death of more of our beloved sports.