Football can breathe a collective sigh of relief. The ringleaders of a gang of match fixers were yesterday banged up at Angela Merkel’s pleasure for their part in the scandal that hit a number of high profile Europe-wide games. Croatian Ante Sapina and accomplice Marijo C were both handed down sentences of five-and-a-half years for their part in the scheme.
The court heard how the gang bribed players and referees in matches across the entire continent and benefited by wagering large amounts on the outcomes that they’d pre-determined. The corruption of games went as high as lesser-known Champions League and World Cup qualifiers but it will show anyone looking to get into the illegal practice that FIFA and UEFA are not going to stand by and willingly let it take place.
As a further illustration of this, you only have to look at the plan set out by FIFA in conjunction with Interpol to tackle the practice. It won’t be easy as in the past few days FIFA itself estimated that the market for match fixing is worth a massive $90billion every year.
In terms of the games that were exploited in this particular case, Sapina and his gang manipulated the result of a Champions League Group E match between Hungarian side Debreceni VSC and Italian team Fiorentina in October 2009. The score was 4-3 and in addition to a 2010 World Cup Qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland they were among games that earned Sapina a €2.4million profit.
There’s still a very long way to go to rid the game of those that cause it such harm. This is a huge step towards starting the process of eradicating it from the global game.