It emerged this week that two Welsh Premier League fixtures were possibly fixed last season, according to a report submitted to the European parliament by anti-match fixing organisation Federbet. Though the news was startling and damaging, the report does nothing to assist the clubs or league and I am left dubious of these so-called findings.
My initial reaction to hearing the news that a European-based anti-match-fixing body called Federbet had identified two ‘League of Wales’ (seriously, it’s been 14 years now) games as being corrupted was one of shock and anger. Along with 11 other English fixtures and many more from league competitions around the world, it was claimed in a report released on Tuesday that Port Talbot’s 1-1 tie with Carmarthen and Bala Town’s 7-0 win over Connah’s Quay were subject to irregular betting patterns.
Over the last few days, I’ve spoken to lots of people who’ve asked me what I thought about this match-fixing scandal within the Welsh Premier League – sadly for the WPL, to an extent, the damage has already been done. People had already quickly taken these allegations as absolute confirmation that the Welsh game is suffering from corruption, but despite the hefty weight of Federbet’s report – details supporting their damning claims are currently vague.
I would be astounded if the report that is freely available on the Federbet website is the same report that was submitted to European parliament based on its inaccuracies and lack of evidence.
While boasting a lengthy list of matches which have been identified as being ‘fixed’, Federbet’s claims are completely unsubstantiated in the document. Even the data presented on just the two Welsh fixtures is inaccurate, citing an incorrect date and result for the Bala Town v Connah’s Quay match – a fixture which Federbet had so clearly paid close attention to in order to condemn the fixture as being corrupted in the first place.
And surely, prior to publishing such findings, you would have expected Federbet to have consulted the relevant clubs and associations. In the case of the two Welsh games it appears not, as none of the clubs involved or the FAW were directly informed of the contents of the report. Clearly, it would’ve been best interests of all to have communicated such findings with those directly involved as opposed to the unpleasant situation that we are left with. Unless they can support and evident their claims, all Federbet have done is cast a large, speculative shadow over the WPL, which does absolutely nothing to protect the integrity and values of the game.
I’ve been associated with the league for several years as a supporter, a club official and in a professional capacity. It would be naive for anyone to think that the WPL isn’t at risk of corruption – any league in football is, particularly those where players are on modest earnings compared to their professional counterparts in far more illustrious leagues. Sports betting is a global phenomenon which has found itself thriving in the age of the internet and mobile technology, and the Welsh Premier League have been aware and proactive on this matter for some time, as their official statement confirms.
In fact, the joint-FAW and Welsh Premier League’s responding statement is far more illuminating on what they are doing to curtail the risk of match corruption and protecting integrity, than Federbet’s hard-hitting yet ambiguous report sets out to achieve. So far, there seems to be a lot of credibility lost but in return very little gained other than international publicity for a previously little-known organisation called Federbet, who should have had handled this delicate and damaging situation far better.