Butler: Operation veto a result of ambivalence

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Noel Butler
2/8/2013 8:09:29 PM
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Ed Note: Singapore's police announced Friday that they would cooperate with Interpol to help Italian authorities investigate match-fixing syndicates.

With the domestic European football season on a seven-day sabbatical ahead of a number of mouth-watering midweek international friendlies this past Monday morning, just as some of the sport's highest grade talent was assembling on their respective training pitches the director of Europol, Rob Wainwright delivered the beautiful game's gatekeepers a most damning verdict.

Operation VETO an 18 month long investigation conducted by a pan-European police force had unearthed considerable evidence an isolated virus inflicting football has turned into a continent wide pandemic. 

If confirmation was even needed that European football's annual flagship event was not immune Wainwright's diagnoses included a non-specific UEFA Champions League case.

The richest domestic club competition in world football infected with the poison of Match Fixing. Other victims include World Cup and EURO 2012 Qualifiers. 
We cannot feel surprised. Nor shock.

It's what happens to all diseases when they are allowed to incubate as they go unchecked by the appropriate authorities.

As crime syndicates have infiltrated the sport in a manner as destructive as any defender witnesses in his feeble attempts to contain Messi, those most accountable for why this has been allowed to happen have remained stubbornly quiet through the week.

Bonjour Monsieurs Blatter and Platini.

Save of course, the organizations they preside over voicing displeasure through the smokescreen of quiet whispers that un-cooperative Europol hadn't even been in touch to advise what they'd unearthed. Let alone prior warn UEFA or FIFA they would be going public with their findings!

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand why the decision was made by Europol not to brief supposedly two of the greatest and grandest sporting entities on earth.

Sadly, the silence from Geneva and Nyon echoes perfectly the classically conditioned behaviour we have witnessed through the ages regarding football's other ugly manifestations racism and corruption.

We have gone well past the point for FIFA and UEFA to check their moral compass.

Football's very own match fixing caped crusader, Ottawa's Declan Hill - author of 2010's globally acclaimed "The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime" - recently returned from Rome and a two-day conference organized by Interpol.

"Match Fixing: The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game" was the rather apt conference title. Hill delivered a key note speech to a room equally filled with well-meaning police officers and ambivalent at best football administrators.  

It was Hill's tome that introduced us to a heinous chap who goes by the humorous moniker of Dan Tan. AKA Tan Seet Eng. Sounds like a criminal version of the Morse Code.

Match Fixing's ringmaster has an international warrant issued by Interpol out for his arrest. Problem is Singapore - the epicentre of Europol's investigation - refuses to serve the warrant citing a lack of an extradition treaty.

Extradition Treaties are naturally between nation states. Pretty difficult to have one with an International Police Agency, all the Qatari petrodollars in the world couldn't buy one.

World Soccer put a rather eloquent take on Singapore earlier in the week - 'You might get fined for chewing gum in Singapore, but fix a few football matches and you're an entrepreneur.'

Wait, it gets better.

Hill unearthing this gem when he spoke with TSN 690 earlier in the week, "Interpol and FIFA are opening a multi dollar education centre against Match Fixing next year."

Finally, the world governing body will be seen to be doing something. Until you discover where they will place it.

"It's in Singapore," Hill disclosed.

Make that one up, Quentin Tarantino.

Hill went onto explain, "It's so mind boggling. The country where there is an international arrest warrant served against a major fixer, [the Singaporean government] refuse to act on that international arrest warrant. And FIFA and Interpol are placing headquarters of their activities against match-fixing in that country.

"What kind of education can any referee or player who is brought to that centre get from that? The very government that they are placing the centre in refuses to acknowledge international warrants against major fixers. It's outrageous."

At the Rome conference, Hill wanted Interpol to include in their closing statement wording to the effect that Singapore honours its international warrant against Dan Tan. The response according to Hill was to shout him down. 

Isn't that what bullies do?

Cornered, Hill has started a petition to get the Singapore government to serve the arrest warrant on Tan. Suggesting Canadian's should write to the Singapore Embassy urging the country that is seen as the financial hub and sobriety of Asia honour the request.

And don't think our football and players are immune. Recently, we had the high profile disclosure involving a Canadian Soccer League match.

Most damning ever and likely one of the most despicable episodes in Canadian sport involved players who bought complete shame to the nation and all we stand for after criminally agreeing to take a bribe to throw the semifinal of the 1986 Merlion Cup match against of all nations, North Korea.

Now factor in the fact that '86 represents the only time we've qualified for the World Cup Finals.

The timing of Europol's pronouncements ironically has taken considerable media heat away from UEFA President Platini. This stemming from France Football's 20-page investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup Finals - 'Qatargate' was published late last month.

Amongst the more serious allegations centres round a lunch that occurred in Paris in late November 2010 - a mere 10 days before FIFA's executive committee members awarded Qatar the rights to the 2022 World Cup Finals.

Attending that lunch alongside Platini was ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Crown Prince of Qatar. France Football alleges Platini came under pressure to switch his vote from the US. Platini has subsequently issued a denial and threatened to sue anyone who alleges his vote was bought.

Quite coincidentally in early 2011, the Qatari State Investment Fund purchased Paris St. Germain, the club Sarkozy supports (Bienvenue, Becks). Then last year, a TV broadcaster owned by QSIF opened a French sports TV station that shortly afterwards submitted an astronomical bid to win the broadcasts rights to Ligue 1.

Platini is very much seen as Blatter's heir apparent. To the conspiracy theorists it is mere subterfuge that two of the most powerful men in all of world sport have a very public disdain for each other.

This is best illustrated by their diametric views on technology's place in world football - Blatter embracing Goal Line Technology, a subject matter sacré bleu in the eyes of Platini.

Let us just hope football's most powerful in step with the appropriate law enforcement authorities and governments finally set about charting the necessary path to bring to justice those who currently are structurally permitted to wreak their ill-gotten havoc right across the world's game.

A starting point could be calling a thorough investigation into the discoveries stemming from Operation VETO that scientifically analyses root cause and effect.

In the past, The Beautiful Game has stopped wars. Most famously bought a sense of complete togetherness - the likes of the United Nations could only dream of - when war ravaged Iraq was crowned Asian Champion at the height of the brutal conflict in 2007.

That victory ignited country wide celebrations amongst Shiite and Sunni alike.

Try explaining Operation VETO to those people.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel

You can listen to the entire chat with Declan Hill over at TSN.ca/Montreal.

Declan Hill (Photo: @declan_hill)

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(Photo: @declan_hill)
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