A sports injustice revealed
Two weeks ago, CBC senior investigative reporter Diana Swain proved that match fixing perpetrated by a global crime syndicate in Europe has occurred in at least one game in the Canadian Soccer League.
The thought of this is happening in a league that acts as a farm system for our Canadian Major League Soccer teams like Montreal Impact FC and Toronto FC has disgusted me for months now, and I am relieved to see it finally brought to light.
While the CSL only exists in Eastern Canada, the issues uncovered by Swain’s investigation affect the game of soccer on a nation-wide scale.
Earlier in this CSL season, I spent some time covering a team in Waterloo, Ont. When I first was assigned to covering CSL games, I too began to hear comments about how the league was riddled with corruption, and that European crime syndicates used the CSL for betting and match fixing.
When I did some digging, I found a couple of people involved in the league that told me they have been involved in fixed matches in the past, games that were played after the now infamous Sept. 12, 2009 match between Toronto Croatia and Trois-Rivičres Attak that saw $18,000 in bribes handed out to Toronto players and which resulted in a 4-1 Trois-Rivičres victory.
Due to the fact that this was carried out a continent over and some players in the CSL only earn about $5,000 per season, the league has become an easily manipulated system.
Unfortunately, neither source that spoke to me about these travesties would agree to go on the record with their names or information. What I had uncovered was enough to know there was something seriously amiss in the CSL, but it was nowhere near enough to bring to the presses, so I arrived at an impasse and shortly thereafter, I accepted this position at the St. Paul Journal and headed out west.
I spoke with Swain through email late last week regarding the success of her story and the struggles I came across pursuing the same topic. Swain told me that she too came across these issues, as many players and staff who have been involved in or affected by match-fixing – especially those still in the league – are very hesitant to come forward with the truth. Swain added that while her story could only definitively point to one example of match fixing, she heard of many more.
While I am admittedly disappointed that I didn’t have the ability to break this story, I am happy to be able to express my feelings about this injustice now that it has been revealed, and I hope we will now see it eradicated from the league altogether.
I am optimistic that more players will now realize the damage being done to their league, and refuse to be a part of the problem any longer. Soccer is becoming a very popular game in Canada, but how are we supposed to grow the most popular sport in the world if our highest level of all-Canadian soccer is being puppeteered by betting parlors? How can the number of goals a player or team scores reflect their skill when it is surrounded by the speculation of how many were ‘real’ goals?
It’s horrible that something this despicable had to be revealed on the heels of Canada’s rousing Olympic women’s soccer team’s bronze medal victory, but I have to believe it is a step in the right direction.
Match rigging is one of the biggest fears of any devout sports fan. To think that you could be spending your free time pouring your devotion and money into something that ends up being a pre-determined lie, perpetrated to win bets, is sickening.
Genuine Canadian soccer fans take money out of their wallets to enjoy these games, and I’m sure all of those present at the Toronto versus Trois-Rivičres game feel cheated to find out that their money has gone toward something that was more equivalent to on-stage theatre than legitimately competitive sport.
I’m sure it was not easy – or safe – to uncover the truth about these global crime syndicates fixing matches in the CSL, but the only way to fix a problem of this magnitude is first to bring it to light, and I commend Swain and her investigative team for putting their necks on the line to do just that.
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