There’s no place for soccer corruption in our city
Zero tolerance must be enforced against match-fixing at all levels of the game, to maintain its integrity
The nature of soccer matches has made it one of the most corruption-prone sports in the world. The involvement of betting and huge financial interests means there is always temptation to bend the rules for illicit gains. The situation in Hong Kong is, thankfully, nowhere close to that in overseas countries. But match-fixing still sadly happens from time to time.
The latest scandal saw six people arrested for alleged bribery in fixing matches. They include an assistant coach-player, a former player and three serving players of Pegasus, as well as a suspected bookmaker. The five players allegedly conspired to accept bribes of more than HK$90,000 as rewards for help rigging four Reserve Division League matches in the 2015-16 season.
Investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption are still ongoing. But the case, the second in two years, has already dealt another blow to the city’s soccer. In 2014, six Happy Valley players were arrested for match-fixing, with the club suspended for the rest of the season. Croatian player Sasa Mus was jailed for 12 months.
It is not just the clubs or the career of individual players that have been affected. Such scandals are only disincentives to commercial sponsorship and ticket sales. They also damage the integrity of the game and our reputation as a soccer-loving city.
The Football Association’s response has sent the right signal that match-fixing is not to be tolerated. Currently, there appears to be tight supervision over top-level matches, with an array of measures in place to strengthen awareness about corruption. But matches in lower divisions are generally less closely followed by the people. The room for manoeuvre is therefore bigger. This is not helped when players are underpaid and cross-border soccer betting has become increasingly rampant. The incentive for match-fixing remains high.
Zero tolerance of corruption has been the city’s hallmark of success. To maintain the integrity of the soccer industry, we must not hesitate to flash the red card for corrupt practices.