Category Archives: MATCH-FIXING

Exclusive Video: Mario Cizmek Tells the Full Story

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Mario Cizmek, a convicted match-fixer, tells his story about why he entered the corrupt world. Photo: Thomas Søndergaard/PlaytheGame

One of the most dominating topcis of Play the Game 2013 in Aarhus, Denmark, have been match-fixing.

And thanks to the former Croatian Football player Mario Cizmek, the participants have been able to get an insider’s view on why some professional football players decide to enter the world of match-fixing.

Mario Cizmek did. In this exclusive and unedited video-interview, he tells his full story.

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Time to Look Forward: Is Finnish Football Ready to Prevent Severe Scandals?

Petri Heikkinen hopes for a bright future for Finnish football after several match-fixing scandals. Foto: Simon Pallesen
Petri Heikkinen hopes for a bright future for Finnish football after several match-fixing scandals.
Foto: Simon Pallesen

“We were blue-eyed, when the scandal hit us in 2005,” an honest Petri Heikkinen, who worked for the Finnish Football Federation for almost 10 years, said.

From 2005 and 2011, Finnish football was severely hit by match-fixing. AC Allianssii, a now disolved club, were struggling financially in 2005. The club was overtaken by Zheyun Ye, who already had been fixing matches in Belgium.

Ye brought in his own manager and a team mostly consisting of Belgian players. They lost 8-0 to FC Haka, and then it all began.

Nobody knew how to handle the Match-Fixing scandal
Ye and others involved were never charged. Lack of knowledge is to blame.

“The police didn’t know how to handle this. The exchange of information with Belgium failed. It died out,” Heikkinen said.

Belgian authorities have also been criticised heavily for their part in the investigation.

More on Finnish football: Can smartphones prevent match-fixing?

“I can’t say it won’t happen again”
Since 2005 Finnish football has been hit by four major match-fixing scandals. Mostly clubs with financial trouble, Tampere, AC Alianssi and RoPa, have been targeted.

“We probably didn’t do enough,” Heikkinen said. “ We had to learn about the background of match-fixing. We know much more about it now.”

“I can’t say it won’t happen again. It’s happening all over the world. It will probably happen again or maybe it’s even happening at the moment.”

“You can’t Effectively Manage Match-Fixing if you can’t Define it”

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Was the New Orleans Saints involved in match fixing? Foto: Cardinals17.

Much has been said on the subject of match fixing the last few days of this year’s Play The Game conference.

But what seems to be the case is, that no one really has given much thought about the definition of match fixing.

That was until researcher Karen Jones from T.M.C Asser Instituut, Asser International Sports Law Centre, asked the question: How do you define match fixing?

Don’t invent it, define it
According to the Dutch speaker there is no universal definition of match fixing – only a lot of variations at national, European and international level.

And that is probably one of the key problems when working with legislating match fixing.

“You can’t effectively manage, what you can’t define. There’s no need to create something entirely new, we just need to define what’s already there” she stated, at Wednesdays session.

Seeking a common definition
International sports should be crying out for a common definition that can help public understanding support the national law development, and thereby contribute to harmonization. A common definition could be key in creating good governance in sports.

The lack of clear definition leads to cases, which leave sports ethics on a knifes edge.

Karen Jones herself named the NFL Bounty Scheme as one example of jeopardizing the ethics, and a scheme which according to some definitions could be considered match fixing.

The not so saintly Saints
Last year it was concluded that coaches of the NFL team New Orleans Saints would pay additional bonuses to players causing serious injury to members of the opposing team.

The fees were nominal when the players salary was taken into consideration, but it could be construed as incentive to alter the outcome of a match by injuring the opposing team.

“Under the national american plan it was perceived as match fixing, but according to the European Counsil it wasn’t,” she added.

Gamze Bal: The Turks don’t Support the National Team Because of Corruption

Gamze Bal talks about match-fixing in Turkey. Foto: Simon Pallesen
Gamze Bal talks about match-fixing in Turkey. Foto: Simon Pallesen

Fenerbahce won the championship in 2011. They did that with an impressive winning streak, as 16 out of the last 17 games in the season were won.

But many people found that suspicious and police launched an investigation finding six clubs guilty of match-fixing.

Among the suspects was the president of Fenerbahce, Aziz Yildirim. He was sentenced to six years and three months of imprisonment, but he is still the president of Fenerbahce, while he is waiting for the outcome of an appeal

No relegation  

The Turkish Football Federation was run by Mehmet Ali Aydınlar. He is a former board member of Fenerbahce, and a well known passionate fan.

”I do not want to be remembered as the president who relegated Fenerbahce. People who question my love for Fenerbahce, did not serve the club as much as I did”, said Mehmet Ali Aydınlar shortly after he stepped down as president.

Now he is running for president of Fenerbahce.

The national team suffers

”The Turkish people now see football as a theatre. They think that everything is settled before the games” said Turkish journalist, Gamze Bal, at Play the Game in Aarhus.

Because of the involvement of members of The Turkish Football Federation, the national team feels the consequences of the scandal.

”When the national team plays, the stands are almost empty. People don’t even support the team, because the Turkish Football Federation is run by corrupted figures”, says Gamze Bal.

Flipping Match-Fixing Upside Down: Who Protects the Players?

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Daniel Köllerer was sentenced to lifetime bans and large fines by the Tennis Integrity Unit on the basis of very little evidence. Photo: Robbie Mendelson/Flickr

In the last few days at the Play the Game conference it has been well confirmed, that match-fixing is indeed a problem locally, nationally and internationally.

A lot of solutions to dealing with match-fixing via both disciplinary action and criminal law has been suggested.

But who will protect the interests of the athletes if the hunt for match-fixers turn into a witch hunt, and someone unjustly takes the fall?

Life or six months
Speaker Katarina Pijetlovic presented an interesting case of recent match-fixing cases in tennis, where high profile players, including Daniel Köllerer, was sentenced to lifetime bans and large fines by the Tennis Integrity Unit, on the basis of very little evidence.

It was one man’s word against another – the accused against the accuser.

Players suspected of similar crimes, who confessed, was sentenced much more leniently with bans of only six months and fines of 3000 dollars. Making it the more appealing choice, to actually admit to match-fixing – guilty or not.

Void and null
The agreement the players have to sign is legally void, because none of the terms has been negotiated with the affected players before they sign.

“The wawer the players has to sign to play professionally takes away their right of appeal, and by signing it, they agree that they can be charged with crimes based on a low standard of evidence,” Katarina Pijetlovic explained.

None the less, the players have to sign the agreement and follow its rules, because they have no other choice, if they want to be a part of the pro-leagues.

Awareness is Key in the Fight Against Match-Fixing

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Nick Garlick frem Europol on planary session – Match fixing cure: Is the mafia invincible. Photo: Jannik Toft Friis

During his speeches at Play the Game, Harri Syväsalmi, Director of Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland, has explained that shining a light on match-fixing is an important factor towards fixing the issue.

”What we need to do is to raise awareness. We are fighting criminal organisations, and we should act accordingly,” he stated.

Awareness is a succes

Senior specialist Nick Garlick of Europol concurs, and explained that investigations serves a bigger purpose in the fight than singular convictions of athletes and criminals.

“We need greater awareness, and the biggest success of the recent investigations is the greater awareness of the issue”.

Make it easier for the whistleblowers

Whistleblowers get a bad reputation, and generally suffers more under the guise of being “rats” than the actual perpetrators of match-fixing.

And as Nick Garlick explains, that attitude needs alteration for something to truly change in the world of sports.

“Athletes should be happy to report match fixing, without being looked down at as whistleblowers. Zero tolerance is not the way in my opinion, and players reporting match fixing should be able to continue their careers without lifetime bans and stigma.”

Athletes as a part of the solution

Harri Syvasalmi agrees, that the athletes should be treated as heroes for blowing the whistle, rather than like criminals.

“Athletes needs to be a part of the solution from the beginning, instead of a part of the problem”.

See the Exclusive Interview with Former Match-Fixer Mario Cizmek

The Croatian footballer Mario Cizmek was banned to play football back in 2010 because of his participation in match-fixing.

Cizmek didn’t get paid salary for 14 months at his former club and that led him to the easy money that match-fixing offers.

Watch the exclusive interview below and hear the footballers story.

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Top Referee on Match-Fixing: Tottenham Manager Told me that I was an Honorable Man

"We keep a close eye on suspicious refereeing," Peter Mikkelsen says.  Foto: Anders V/Flickr
“We keep a close eye on suspicious refereeing,” Peter Mikkelsen says. Photo: Anders V/Flickr

Former players, experts and other stakeholders have adressed the problem of match-fixing in football during the Play The Game conference, but we are yet to hear from the key part of a football match. The referee.

Peter Mikkelsen, a former international top referee named world’s best referee in 1991 and 1993 and member of FIFA’s referee committee, is happy that the referees aren’t present.

“It’s good, because it means match-fixing isn’t a big problem for us,” the Dane claims.

Referees don’t match-fix because the money isn’t big
In 2005 Robert Hoyzer, a german referee, was the center of a big match-fixing scandal. But that’s a quite rare situation, according to Mikkelsen.

“We don’t experience any problems with match-fixing and we don’t discuss it in FIFA, because it’s not a problem.”

“Of course we will act, if there’s a problem. The referees are not professional as the players are and they have civilian jobs. I think, that’s why we don’t see referees fixing matches,” says Mikkelsen.

The closest thing to match-fixing came in Portugal
Mikkelsen has never experienced match-fixing in the many, many games he refereed.

He does mention a situation in Portugal in a match between a local side and Tottenham Hotspur. The home team were putting Mikkelsen in situations that were ideal for a match-fixing referee.

“I was never approached or offered anything, but the Portuguese players dived a couple of times in the box and I waved away their protests. After the game the Tottenham manager told me, that I was a very honorable man.”

Smartphones Could be New Safe Haven for Whistleblowers

Players can now report match-fixing on their smartphine. Foto: steefafa/flickr
Players can now report match-fixing on their smartphine. Photo: steefafa/flickr

A lot of initiatives to combat match-fixing are seeing the daylight these days. And according to Harri Syväsalmi, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, there is a need for that.

That is why he hails the invention of a smartphone app called ”Don’t fix it.” The initiative is funded by the European Union, and it is coordinated by FIFPro.

It can only be downloaded by athletes who can anonymously submit information, if the have suspicion about match-fixing.

Big success – yet still no cases

“We have visited every club in the top three tiers in the mens league, and the top two tiers of the womens league”, says Markus Juhola the chairman of the Finnish Players Union.

The app has been downloaded 1.300 times, which is an overwhelming majority of the roughly 1.600 players in Finland

Eight countries are involved at the moment, but so far nothing has come out of the five to six reported cases.

Many cases in Finland

It is no coincidence, that Finland is one of the countries, where the app is now being tested. They received a major wake up call back in 2005, and there has been several cases since.

Back then the football club AC Allianssi lost suspiciously 8-0 to FC Haka. But a police investigation failed to find enough evidence to open a case.

”In 2005 it was very chaotic. Neither the police, nor anybody else knew what to do”, says Petri Heikkinen from the Finish Sport Federation.