The Premier League's reputation is at stake
11 July ~ The claims by former Southampton defender Claus Lundekvam that he and fellow Premier League captains organised bets together could damage the integrity of English football. In wake of the match-fixing scandal in his native Norway, the retired international alleged he would "have an agreement with the opposing team" to make "a fair amount of money" and that such agreements would continue "almost every week." Lundekvam said they "bet on the first throw, the first corner, who started with the ball, a yellow card or a penalty", but rejected accusations he had directly influenced the outcome of the match.
"The results were never on the agenda. That is something I would never have done. We were professional competitors," said Lundekvam, who won 40 caps for his country and became the only foreign player to make more than 400 appearances for Southampton. Fans, football authorities and the police are unlikely to share his perspective. The outcome of the match could be affected by the result of a penalty being scored or through a second bookable offence.
Rule E8a of the FA regulations handbook states that: "A participant shall not, either directly or indirectly, bet, or instruct, permit or enable any person for the participant's benefit to bet, on the result, progress or conduct of a match or competition in which the participant is participating or in which the participant has any influence, either direct or indirect."
Lundekvam is clearly in violation of this rule and his allegations could now spark an FA investigation into a league which is reputed for its professionalism. Former Southampton team-mate Matt Le Tissier confessed in his autobiography to a failed betting scam in 1995, in a match against Wimbledon. He would have earned around £10,000 for kicking the ball out of play within the first minute. Others players including Bruce Grobbelaar, John Fashanu and Hans Segers have been cleared of match-fixing.
Lundekvam's claims raise new questions about the sport in England. Have betting patterns affected results? How can we be sure spot-fixing is no longer prevalent? Although Lundekvam is now retired, many of the coaches, managers and backroom staff involved in the incidents could still be working at English clubs.
In November 2011, the International Cricket Council banned three Pakistan internationals from the sport after they were found guilty of deliberately bowling no balls in a test match against England. The players were imprisoned along with bookmaker and former Croydon Athletic FC owner Mazhar Majeed.
While players such as Lundekvam can no longer be banned from playing, football authorities should ensure he cannot start his coaching badges and he should have no further involvement with the sport. Fans expect players to show loyalty and dedication to their team; essentially they have been robbed of the money that they have put into watching their football club.
One fan on the forum of the Daily Echo in Southampton said this story "ensured that Lundekvam's once legendary status with fans has been well and truly eroded." It also affects those who place bets, as the outcome should not be pre-determined. That in itself constitutes a crime punishable with incarceration.
Fraud is an issue in many European leagues. Despite earlier refusing to comment on Lundekvam's claims, the FA needs to take a swift decision. In Lundekvam they seem to have a willing whistleblower, but launching an investigation could have disastrous consequences for the game's reputation. Max Bentley