Liverpool hit the headlines once more on Monday as sketchy details emerged of allegations of bribery and corruption surrounding a Champions League game from 2009.
The headlines were sensationalistic but misleading, including "Liverpool's 2009 Champions League Tie Win [Against] Debrecen Under Suspicion" from Sky Sports.
The only involvement Liverpool had in the game was turning up to play. Indeed, as more details became clear, it was apparent that the Reds not only had no involvement, but scuppered the alleged attempted fixing of the match by failing to hit the target enough times.
Reports in England surfaced early on Monday that close to 700 professional matches were under suspicion of being fixed (via BBC) and that one of them, a UEFA Champions League tie, took place in England.
No further details were at the time available, other than that the match had taken place within the last three or four years. But it later was reported that Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet (h/t Guardian) had revealed that the Liverpool vs. Debrecen fixture from the Group Stages in 2009-10 season was the game in question.
It is important to first acknowledge that match-fixing does not always necessarily indicate that the outcome or result of a game has been compromised. With betting so widespread in football matches, a simple bet of which team wins the first throw-in or corner could easily be manipulated by unscrupulous players.
In this instance, though, it appears that the allegations are altogether more serious, with Debrecen said to have been asked to ensure that Liverpool scored at least three goals (per Telegraph), leading to reported disappointment from those involved:
The report in Ekstra Bladet claimed fixers wanted to rig the betting market for total goals in the match, but failed. The newspaper claimed that fixers wanted to ensure there were at least three goals in the match, and that according to court papers they texted each other to express frustration at Liverpool’s failure to score more.
Though the Reds dominated the encounter, they only won the match by a single goal. Dirk Kuyt's strike was the only goal of the game as Liverpool triumphed 1-0.
Another group stage match from the same campaign involving Debrecen was also the target of attempted match-fixing, with goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic since being banned for two years for failing to report an approach to manipulate the game against the Italians.
Liverpool FC have remained largely untroubled by the allegations, simply stating that they had not been contacted by Europol (via BBC), who are conducting the investigation.
The Reds might not have anything to worry about in this instance, but the same cannot be said for the wider implications for football in general.
According to the same BBC report, almost £7 million in profits were recorded in Germany alone as a result of match-fixing in the games that have been scrutinised, and there remains the belief that there is far worse to come.
Other Champions League matches are said to be involved, as well as World Cup, European Championship qualifying games and domestic league matches from all around Europe. With more than 400 names implicated so far, it is becoming clear just how widespread the problems of match-fixing are for authorities to deal with.
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