Turkey’s match-fixing scandal gets more serious by the day. Earlier today, a Turkish court formally charged 15 more suspects, including senior Fenerbahce officials Sekip Mosturoglu and Ilhan Eksioglu.
Also charged were Bulent Uygun, technical director of Eskisehirspor and Mecnun Odyakmaz, president of Sivasspor, along with several players, including former Fenerbahce player Umit Karan.
The court also issued a warrant for Fenerbahce president Aziz Yildirim, who has been accused of bribing rival teams’ players to play badly. Yildirim is currently hospitalised with heart problems.
The scandal centres on recently-crowned champions Fenerbahce, who won the title on last day of the season on goal difference after closest rivals and season pacesetters Trabzonspor were held to a draw. Fenerbahce qualified directly for the group stages of the Champions League – and its associated riches.
Bribes of up to $300,000 were allegedly offered to rival teams, according to reports in Turkey.
Turkey is just the latest country to become embroiled in match-fixing scandal. The situation in Turkey is different to the cases in South Korea, Finland, Italy and others that we report in the latest issue of World Soccer.
Most of the other scandals, headed by events in Germany, where Croatian fixer Ante Sapina was recently jailed for his part in Europe’s biggest match-rigging scandal, are linked to Asian gambling gangs.
Here, the focus has been on low-key matches that pass under the radar. Bets have been placed during matches on specific events withing matches, such as penalties. Far eastern gangs have targeted poorly-paid players whose low wages make them susceptible to bribery.
The recent friendly between Nigeria and Argentina B, from which FIFA is investigating unusual betting patterns, is a case in point. Nigeria won the match comfortably but Argentina were awarded a highly controversial penalty late into injury time. The goal did not affect the result, but unusually high bets were placed on a late penalty for Argentina.
The footballing authorities, led by UEFA, are beginning to take these matters seriously. FIFA, though slow to follow UEFA’s lead, has started to work with Interpol in tackling Asian gambling rings. It is a criminal problem that requires governmental action on a global scale.
Turkey is an altogether different situation. The allegations centre on the climax of the recent Turkish league season. They concern high-profile matches, screened on prime-time TV, whose results appear to have been manipulated by senior figures within the Turkish game.
The situation in Turkey should concern everybody in football. For those in England who say it couldn’t happen here, think again.