Match fixing is not going away any time soon. It is probably the biggest problem that the game of soccer has to face moving forward and Canada is going to have a role to play in that. A year ago many of us naively thought that match fixing was something that took place in other, more corrupt countries. That illusion was shattered though when Ben Rycroft released a report for the CBC confirming that at least one Canadian Soccer League match had been fixed and there was reason to believe that other matches had been fixed as well.
Those allegations nearly brought about the end of the Canadian Soccer League, at least as a sanctioned league, when the Canadian Soccer Association tried to pull the league's sanctioning. It all led to a messy back and forth between the two parties with the end result being the Court of Arbitration for sport siding with the CSL and order the CSA to re-instate the leagues sanctioning for the 2013 season. After that though, the sanctioning would be removed and the league would be left in limbo having to either shut-up shop, turn to the Ontario Soccer Association for sanctioning, or run as a rogue league.
It seemed that the CSL would just play out this season and then fade into obscurity come 2014. That is not going to be the case though as match fixing continue to plague the league. According to Declan Hill, author of "The Fix", matches in the league are still being fixed and he was alerted to the fact by Asian bookmakers and substantiated by SportsRadar who are heavily involved in monitoring for suspicious activity including working with MLS.
Hill was on the Fan590 on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the latest round of allegations on Primetime Sports and he also posted a blog on his own site updating the situation. It is worth taking the time to read the full blog post and listen to the interview on Primetime sports even if Mr. Hill was unable to provide much in the way of concrete details for legal reasons.
The real short version is that Hill and the people he has spoken to believe that three suspicious matches in the last eight weeks were fixed. All three matches took place in the CSL right in many of our reader's own backyard of Southern Ontario.
The fact that games in the CSL continue to be fixed is sadly not going to come as a shock to many people. Very little was done to address the problem when it was initially reported so it would be foolish to expect that anything would have changed since last summer. The league remains vulnerable to fixing because of its semi-professional nature leaving many players open to taking an easy payday in exchange for fixing a result.
As Hill points out in his blog post part of the problem is that it is so easy to approach players to try and fix games and when such approaches happen there is no clear way for players, coaches, or officials to report them. As it stands, the CSA has no one in place to help counter match fixing and that is something that needs to change.
This report from Hill is just the latest in a long line of allegations of match fixing in the country. Match fixing is nothing new in Canadian soccer as reports of it go all the way back to the days of Paul James. The Canadian World Cup veteran talked about how he along with other members of the national team were involved in match fixing during the Merlion Cup in Singapore in his e-book "Cracked Open"
So if match fixing is not something new to the Canadian soccer landscape and the CSA has been aware of the current problems since 2011 when a German court prosecuted the case of a Croatian match-fixer and got a confession that included that now infamous CSL match.
They have now had basically two years to start to take steps to deal with the issue but thus far there have been no visible signs of progress and the CSA has been very resistant to offering public statements on the matter. The fact that they had nothing to say when Hill contacted them is not a surprise because they had little to say the last time this came around and seemed to instead focus on just trying to make the CSL go away and hopefully take the problem with them.
Hill's blog post offers some simple steps that the CSA to take to at least help combat the problem. The fact that Canada is the only one of the nine countries connected to that initial court case to not launch a police investigation of its own speaks volumes and it does not say good things about how our country is addressing the problem.
Declan Hill's blog will be worth paying attention to in the coming days, weeks, or even months as he is able to release more details of his investigation. The details of the teams and games involved are important but in the long run the response from the CSA, should it ever come, will be far more important.
If the CSA have been turing a blind eye to match fixing it is time for them to acknowledge that it is not going to just go away. If they are taking steps to combat the problem hopefully the only reason those steps are not being made public is because they are not legally able to do so at this point in time. Either way, hopefully for the sake of soccer in Canada some sort of news comes out soon that things are being done to at least take the first steps to deal with match fixing.