The documentary on CBC last night focused on a match that took place in Quebec which according to German court findings was fixed by overseas bettors. If you are interested in that story then you can find it here. It was the comments from a player on Canadian Soccer News that brought things closer to home. In this interview between Ben Rycroft and an unnamed CSL player there is one part that really stands out to me:
" WHAT OTHER INSTANCES HAVE YOU HAD WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN APPROACHED BY PEOPLE TO FIX GAMES?
Um, I’d say the London game last year.
SO WALK US THROUGH THAT ONE AGAIN. THEY APPROACHED YOU WHERE?
At the field. Like I was warming up, as I say, I was warm. Last guy to come off the field and a gentleman stopped me you know and say “Like I know the odds for London to beat you guys is a lot, is it possible, do you want to make some money?” and I go 'No.' And then he was just telling me that 'Listen, even if you score three goals I will, you’ll still make money' or whatever the case may be. I said I don’t want nothing to do with it. I’m a soccer player. If I go out there and I score three goals I score three goals. If I score 4 goals I score 4 goals. If I don’t score, I don’t score. So it’s just that’s just the way they do stuff. And I guess this year I got approached in Ottawa about the same thing."
That did not sit well with me as both Ottawa and London are places I have been a part of the soccer community in and seeing that people connected to match fixing could be present there was like a punch to the gut even though it was naive of me to think it could not happen in my own back yard.
Now I do take this report at face value and do not wish to question any of the work that Ben or CBC has done to uncover cases of match fixing but it should be made clear that at this point there is nothing to suggest any London City player has accepted money to throw a game. What is being suggested is that visiting players were approached at their field with offers to fix matches. That actually makes sense in a lot of ways as London City have been a development club in recent years and have experienced a number of rough season where they lost a lot more games than they won. That means that many times London were faces very long odds on the betting sites so if you could get their opponent to throw the game that would really open the door for a bigger pay day.
This report led me to spend some time looking over the club's results from previous seasons to see if any of them really stood out to me as being odd. I went back to the start of 2008 and came up with this list of games worth looking at just a bit harder.
|15/08/08||London City||2 - 2||SC Toronto|
|26/06/09||London City||1 - 1||Serbian White Eagle|
|28/09/10||Toronto Croatia||0 - 2||London City|
|11/05/12||Serbian White Eagles||2 - 2||London City|
This list is by no means evidence of anything and in fact is just a list of London City's more impressive results. Just because a game goes against the odds does not mean that you should start to question the result. What did bother me was the fact that Serbian White Eagles kept showing up on the list despite being a top club in the CSL year after year. I was at that 2-1 win back in 2011 and I could tell you with complete confidence that London City had to fight for every bit of that result. They had to clear the ball off the line a number of times and won off a top quality finish. If that is evidence of Serbian throwing a match they were doing a terrible job of it.
I was not at any of the other matches on the list but from my limited knowledge of betting I would imagine that even a surprise draw is not the best way to get a big payout. I am left to conclude that their is no real evidence in any of London City's results to suggest that a match involving the club has been fixed. There is even less evidence to suggest that they themselves have ever been involved in the throwing of their own game.
I am not Declan Hill or even Ben Rycroft when it comes to knowledge about match fixing but having done my own digging through results I feel a lot more ease about London City and their possible involvement in anything to do with match fixing. That is important to me because not only is the club part of a soccer community I care about greatly but the club has also been home to people I consider to be my friends in recent years. I don't know anyone on the team this year but that does not mean I have stopped caring about them.
I would hope that unless some real and concrete evidence comes out people will not take these match fixing reports and paint all teams in the league with the same brush. It would be a shame to have some bad apples in the CSL taint a club that the Gaus family worked so hard to build into a major part of the London community without any evidence. That said, if these reports cause us to look at how the CSL is run and improve the league it will be good for everyone including London City.
This is just one side of the conversation and I will post my thoughts on how this might impact Toronto FC academy on Waking the Red this afternoon as well so look out for that.