Finland-Bolivia football friendly was cancelled over match-fixing suspicions
The Finnish Football Association entered into a preliminary agreement over organising a friendly fixture between Finland and Bolivia with a party that has been revealed as a fraudster.
According to an article published in today’s issue of the German weekly news magazine Stern, the agent firm that was responsible for organising several practice matches to be played in Antalya, Turkey, has connections to a betting cheat from Singapore.
The Finnish FA and the national team nevertheless avoided becoming victims of a scam, as the friendly against Bolivia was cancelled.
The matter was first reported by the commercial Finnish television channel Nelonen’s news programme Nelosen Uutiset.
FIFA began to look into the possibility of match-fixing after the seven goals in the Bolivia-Latvia and Bulgaria-Estonia friendlies played in Antalya were all scored from the penalty spot.
One of the penalty kicks was even ordered to be retaken after the initial effort was missed.
The dodgy games are suspected of having earned the fraudsters millions of euros in betting returns. After the suspicions emerged and the investigation began, the Finland-Bolivia match that was supposed to take place in late March was cancelled.
“A closer examination revealed that everything was not necessarily quite right and above board with these games. As a result of the negotiations between us and UEFA and the other associations a decision was made to take immediate action and cancel the rest of the friendlies”, said FA managing director Kimmo J. Lipponen.
According to Stern, the Singapore man has orchestrated betting scams with his countryman, who has been arrested in Finland.
This second man is suspected of having tried to affect the outcome of the Finnish League Cup match between RoPS of Rovaniemi and Tampere United.
In other words, more than just one international betting fraudster has targeted Finnish football circles within the last six months.
“We have had preliminary agreements with regard to several matches, just like we did with this one. Our games are organised by a large group of various parties. In this case it was an agent from the Bolivian association who put the matches together”, Lipponen commented.
Finland was also indirectly involved in a match-fixing case over an international match played against Liechtenstein in Vaduz in the World Cup qualification campaign in September 2009.
Whilst no Finnish officials or players were ever suspected of any wrongdoing, it turns out that the match - which ended in a somewhat humiliating 1-1 draw - was not quite kosher, as the Bosnian referee had allegedly been tapped up to ensure that two goals were scored in the second half of the game. The soft penalty awarded to Finland was part of the deal.
In a good many of the football match-fixing cases that have come to light, it has so far been quite common that the games are not high-profile affairs, even if the sums involved are large.
Attempting to fix an English Premiership match or a European Champions League fixture would not only attract a lot of unwelcome attention, but the chances are that the sums required to suborn either players (notoriously highly paid already) or officials would have to be appreciably greater.
This is seen as one reason why someone from Singapore might allegedly have tried to rig the results of an obscure Finnish League Cup tie.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Football manager Olivier Suray admits Finnish match fixing (17.3.2006)
Canadian author claims bribery and corruption rife in international football (2.9.2008)
Former Atlantis FC goalkeeper given suspended sentence for taking a bribe (19.12.2007)
YouTube: Bulgaria-Estonia friendly 9.2.2011 (4 goals from 4 penalties)
New York Times, 7.1.2011: Corruption Eroding Level Playing Fields of Europe