The match fixing scandal which has embroiled Italy for years has been well documented – it could be argued that this is the main factor for Serie A’s plummet in reputation. Allegedly, one of the reasons Robin van Persie declined an offer to join Juventus was because of the much maligned saga which has cost teams far more than just money and points.
However, it appears the line between fixing games and offering bonuses has become blurred, with many people feeling they are justified to wade into the treacherous waters which house bribery without facing any consequences; in their opinion, what they are doing breaks no rules, has nothing immoral surrounding it.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup hit headlines when he said: “If Swansea play the last game against a team and a third team pays Swansea to win the game, I really don’t see anything bad about that.”
What he talks about are known as ‘suitcases’, a payment from a third party which provides an incentive for a team to win a game that would ordinarily be a nothing match to them.
In Spain, it is acceptable, common practice even, for the last few games of the season to be played under the influences of these bonuses. Teams are so determined to stay in the holy land of La Liga that they will pay other teams to beat their rivals, something Laudrup believes is perfectly OK:
It’s just a bonus. For me, match-fixing is somebody pays someone to lose a game.
Let me transport you to a hypothetical situation, a scene available only in our minds. It’s May 13th of last season, the day which the Premier League title will be decided. Manchester City play QPR, and both teams have something to play for – City are vying for their first league title since 1968, whilst their opponents are fighting to remain in the top tier of English football. Meanwhile, at the Stadium of Light, Manchester United face Sunderland, who, with mid-table mediocrity the only possibility, have nothing to play for.
It was here that a suitcase could be offered to the Black Cats by a wealthy Blues fan to persuade their players to perform without the end of season lethargy which is tradition for a mid-table side – thus giving City a better chance of taking the title.
Some might find this acceptable – after all, why shouldn’t the scales be balanced in what was arguably the blue half of Manchester’s biggest match in history? If the game was played at any other time in the season, Sunderland would give it their all to try and take something from the Red Devils – so why, in the season’s biggest weekend, should they give Sir Alex Ferguson’s team an easy ride, a free path to the trophy, while City battered against the resilient doors of Queen’s Park Rangers?
However, not only is this against Premier League rules, but it’s also plain wrong. Both teams have played their way into this position, and therefore the final game should continue as normal. It doesn’t matter how the opposition plays, it matters how your team plays; if you’re good enough to win the title, you shouldn’t need to bribe another team.
Furthermore, there’s the issue of the players taking the contents of these suitcases. We know money reigns throughout football now, but don’t footballers earn enough? Money is not what should govern these players’ attitudes when they’re playing, once they’re settled at a club and not tangled in a mess of transfer disputes. No, it should be a furious desire to win which presides over the heads of the eleven men who stride out of the tunnel.
Are they really that greedy that they need extra money to exert their maximum amount of effort? Why, when being paid to play a sport which millions play for free worldwide, should they require a bursary to perform to their full capabailites for the whole season? They owe it to the fans who show up regardless of temperature, precipitation and god knows what else to do so.
Football spectators are renowned for their passion – on a miserable, sopping wet Tuesday night in Lancashire, who, other than devoted supporters, would turn up to watch 22 men kick a ball up and down a patch of grass?
How would these people react to the news that their players wanted additional cash to play, like they are supposed to, from August through to May? The stands would shudder with anger, frustration, and pure incapability (or more likely a refusal) to comprehend what they have just heard; why, exactly, do they think they have a right to be paid more than usual for simply fulfilling the terms of their contract, for just doing their job?!
In my opinion, Laudrup’s comments are disgraceful. If he were to let his team accept money simply for playing football, any respect which I hold for him would be thrown on the floor and stamped on. It goes against any code of conduct football has, as well as the morals of the sport’s army of participants (and I mean that in every sense of the word, from players to spectators).
This can’t be accepted. Football cannot allow this to happen. Although the morals of the game have shifted dramatically from days gone by, we must now firmly hold them in place to avoid the credibility of the sport from disappearing, and from losing the support of people who have devoted their lives to the game. You have seen how Serie A’s reputation has dropped – do you want the whole of football’s to do the same?
This piece was written by Jake Allingan, you can follow him on twitter @JakeAllingan. He also edits the Tumblr blog Some People On The Pitch. Comments below please.
AFC Leopards SC was established in 1964. It is built on a tradition of quality football on the field and a tight-knit social community off the field. This has enabled it to draw considerable interest and wide support both locally and internationally.