Match fixing in Tilburg?

Not only did the Tilburg soccer club beat one of its rivals last weekend: the local top club also got some very negative publicity. Daily paper De Volkskrant writes that two games the so-called ‘Tricolores’ played in 2009 have been sold to match fixers. The Royal Dutch Football Association says it is ‘the most specific case in The Netherlands so far’ and is reporting the incident with the police. Tilburg University Professor criminology Toine Spapens is not impressed.

The games that Willem II played against Ajax (4-0) and Feijenoord (1-0) supposedly were ‘fixed’. Former midfielder Ibrahim Kargbo is the spider in its web. According to the paper, he accepted money from Singaporean match fixers – €100.000 per game – and recruited his fellow players. Kargbo denies the allegations and says: “All I can say is that this never happened during my career.” His teammates also react surprised.

No half measures
But De Volkskrant didn’t come to these allegations overnight. The paper spoke to dozens of people who were (directly) involved and Kargbo’s name was repeatedly mentioned in those conversations. Even though Kargbo contradicts what is being said, he was suspended for international games when he played for Sierra Leone, because of his part in a match fixing scandal in 2008. His current employer, Atlético Clube Portugal, is also suspicious.

The Royal Dutch Football Association says it’s going to do anything in its power to find out what happened. They want to conduct an investigation, together with UEFA and FIFA.

Perspective
In 2013, Tilburg University, VU Amsterdam, and consultants Ernst & Young published a rapport about match fixing practices in The Netherlands. Professor Tione Spapens was involved in the creation of the rapport. In an interview with Univers, he stated: “Match fixing also appears in The Netherlands, but not on a large scale.” Out of the 732 athletes who were questioned, 4 had once been approached by match fixers.

Even after the recent article in De Volkskrant, Toine Spapens puts things in perspective. “It is nice that De Volkskrant has put so much research into this, but the article is still quite speculative.” The professor is not convinced that the prosecution will actually try to get someone convicted for this. “A while ago, a couple of Dutch players have been charged for match fixing in Belgium. If a case of match fixing comes before a Dutch judge, that would be a special case. A novelty. It will be difficult to bring the right proof. It’s two words against each other. Finding a paper trail or hard proof is complicated.”

Time will tell if the Kargbo case is nothing, or just the tip of the iceberg.

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