Britain sleepwalking into match-fixing crisis

British football authorities have been “sleepwalking” into a match-fixing crisis, according to a leading authority on the subject.

The UK’s National Crime Agency made six arrests on Wednesday as a result of an investigation carried out by the Telegraph newspaper into alleged illegal betting activity on matches.

Declan Hill, author of The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime and The Insider’s Guide to Match-Fixing in Football, claims the Football Association and other bodies have been caught on the hop.

“British football administrators have been sleepwalking themselves into a crisis,” he told Perform. “They’ve been warned about this for years.

“I’m not surprised. This tide of globalised sports corruption has reached all around the world, so it’s not a surprise at all.”

Hill suspects the problem is not as bad as in other parts of the world, but does not rule out more cases emerging in Britain.

“It’s not an endemic problem as it is in Italy or Turkey or various parts of Asia,” he added. “But are there other cases apart from this one out there? Absolutely.

“I think it’s very dangerous to start drawing lines. Until 12 hours ago, British journalists drew a line saying ‘fixing begins at Calais’.

“Now I’m hearing in interviews, ‘fixing is only in the amateur leagues’. It’s going to go up and up and up.”

And Hill believes that a failure to prepare adequately for the spectre of match-fixing by the authorities, has opened the door for criminal elements.

“There are no stalwart realistic defences against this corruption,” he added. “Does the Football Association have an integrity officer? Yes, in name they do, but they don’t have a specially designated fellow that every player in England knows who to contact if there are problems.

“They don’t have a gambling hotline for players getting themselves into problems.

“There’s no capacity for players that have gambling addictions or gambling problems to put their hand up and say ‘Look, I’ve got a problem, I’m going to take this seriously and I’ll come back in three weeks, six weeks, two months’ or whatever it is.

“If a player does that at this moment, they basically sign a death warrant to their own career.

“So there’s some really basic, simple stuff that can be done and it hasn’t been done.

“It doesn’t cost very much money. How long does it take to set up an anonymous hotline? You phone up BT, get a phone number, get somebody there to answer it and bingo, away you go. At most it takes you a week.

“These are not difficult solutions to have.”

Indeed, they are not, but judging by the Telegraph investigation, these solutions have proved beyond Football Association.