Some Asian Games matches fishy, says firm

Some Asian Games matches fishy, says firm
Fireworks explode during the opening ceremony of the 17th Asian Games in Incheon September 19, 2014.

SINGAPORE - In about a week, one of the 29 countries taking part in the Under-23 football tournament in the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, will be crowned champions.

But has the kelong scourge tainted the integrity of the tournament?

Sportradar, a sports-betting analysis company, said betting patterns in some matches indicated that they might have been compromised.

In an exclusive e-mail interview, Andreas Krannich, Sportradar's managing director of strategy and integrity, shared his findings with The New Paper (TNP) on Tuesday.

He said: "We can say that we strongly believe there have been manipulated matches at the Asian Games...

"For example, in a certain match in this competition, bettors were incredibly confident of a goal being scored in the final minutes. The odds movements and the deviations caused alerts, belying clear betting evidence that could never be justified in a regular contest."

The bet amounts for the suspicious matches are unknown.

Due to contractual obligations, Mr Krannich is not able to reveal the teams involved in the matches under suspicion.

He added: "The betting markets for match-fixing in this region are often the same - the Asian Handicap and Asian Totals market. While pre-match betting is often observed, it is the live betting which is often the most suspicious."

He said that the betting patterns in the live betting for some matches suggested that some unknown people were aware that goals would be scored late in those matches.

In live betting, bets can be placed while the match is being played.

Mr Krannich said that "a number of matches were manipulated in the same fashion, suggesting that the same syndicate is operating in Incheon".

World football governing body Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have been alerted to these unusual betting patterns through their fraud-detection early-warning system.

In response to queries by TNP, AFC said it was not in a position to respond to the questions "as the Asian Games, including the football competition, is under the purview of the Olympic Council of Asia".

Fifa said that it could not confirm whether investigations into match-fixing were under way so as not to compromise any possible investigations.

"The integrity of the game is a top priority for Fifa and we take any allegations of match manipulation very seriously," it told TNP.

TNP has learnt that the governing bodies are aware of the match-fixing suspicions and are monitoring the situation.

TNP also understands that three late-scoring matches have come under suspicion. Two of them involved Laos, which lost 4-0 to Malaysia and 3-0 to Saudi Arabia. There were three late goals in both matches. In the third match, Nepal lost 4-0 to Iraq, with two late goals.

During the 2012 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup, Laos were implicated in a 4-1 defeat by Malaysia at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Selangor. The match was believed to have been fixed.

While the identities of the match fixers behind the Asian Games remain unknown, sports-fraud investigator Michael Pride from SI Sports Intelligence (SI) said he would not be surprised if history was repeating itself.

Mr Pride, the operations director at SI, said: "Until somebody takes a serious look at the allegations or is prepared to give out harsh punishments, it (match-fixing) will continue.

"It's frustrating, but match-fixing happens because the monetary gains for corrupt players and the profits from illegal betting for fixers are good."

This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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