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Harte of the Matter - protecting the integrity of soccer

Betting scandal a worrying development

Jimmy Harte

Reporter:

Jimmy Harte

Email:

sport@donegaldemocrat.com

Harte of the Matter - protecting the integrity of soccer

When we watch football matches we always take one team on our side, whether it’s Barcelona v Real Madrid or Southampton v Crystal Palace.

It’s human nature to pick a winner and in football it’s no surprise when teams are backed when the result is plain to see.

It’s when the result is inexplicable that we must look closer at the game in question. Only this week we see the damage that suspicious betting patterns have on communities. There are people who have one focus and that is to make money out of sport. The losers are the poor fans who lose every week, whether it’s a fiver or five hundred on a bet.

We cannot let the pursuit of money cause matches to be decided by forces other than skill and hard work.

The news that an investigation is underway into some League of Ireland matches gives the impression that forgers are targeting lower league teams that may not get the publicity that Premier League teams would attract.

It was good work by officials who spotted the enormous amount of money going on the outcome of a particular match. It may be a coincidence but it alerted football analysts to the situation.

As it stands, an investigation is underway, but It’s looking ominous and it may well reveal the cause of certain betting patterns. It will cause ructions if proof comes out that illegal betting took place.

The children of today are being fooled by betting scams and how do you explain to a fan, a young fan, that his or her team and management aren’t putting the effort in and are basically defrauding the public? It may damage the game for a long time and the innocence of football will be replaced by cynicism and belligerence.

When the truth about betting irregularities is ultimately revealed it could bring down a few big names in the sporting world. Let’s hope for the sake of football it’s a non-story.

Why have Finn Harps and Athlone Town gone in different directions? Why should we be concerned with what emerged this week in Irish soccer and the local game?

It’s all about the control of a League of Ireland club by people with big bucks but no interest in the local slant which teams must have to survive.

Athlone town, if a case is proven, were the guinea pig for some high flying executives from far across the world who see football as a way to make serious money.

We have seen what happened during the Olympics when team places were sold to athletes who were encouraged to take performance-enhancing drugs

Soccer, like athletics, needs to ensure that testing for banned substances is more frequent and more accurate to ensure the image of clean football is not a myth.

The intensity and speed of the game has changed and requires more muscle mass and sophisticated medical teams will find ways to overcome testing issues. In order to ensure soccer is not tainted by match rigging and corruption anyone engaging in such activities needs to be severely punished and doping and match rigging treated the same as any other criminal offence.

We need to act now to ensure money is not put over soccer and skills.