Chris Rattue from the NZ Herald is often controversial and "out there" in his musings on sport. But it is hard to disagree with most of his assessment of this latest footballing bombshell; he opines:
The scale of sport's latest disaster is so immense it is hard to take in.
And when soccer has had time to digest the details, we can only hope that the world game takes corruption and match fixing/tampering more seriously, and deals with it more effectively, than silly old cricket has.
This feels surreal, like someone is hinting at a sporting apocalypse without wanting to say as much. The magnitude appears frightening.
European police have identified 700-odd suspicious matches (about half in Europe) over many countries, involving hundreds of club and match officials, players and crooks in various levels of professional soccer. The main source of the corrupt operation is said to be Singapore.
SEVEN HUNDRED MATCHES - and someone even dared utterthe phrase "tip of the iceberg". How on earth do you deal with something that big?
Match fixing in soccer is not new - top British footballers, including one good international, were jailed and banned for life in the 1960s. But that was an amateur hour production compared with what Europol is uncovering this time.
The automatic question to ask here is how can this scale of corruption have been going on without earlier detection or the spotting of warning signs? Dare we say it, a few blind eyes MUST have been turned along the way. Then again, as tricky as it must be to rig even part of a game - one fix involving a Hungarian team playing against Liverpool in 2009 failed to produce the required number of goals - how do you spot the deliberate errors in a free-flowing sport full of legitimate mistakes?
You almost daren't look at what might follow, for fear of having one of life's joys destroyed, but look we must, and the matches under investigation include World Cup qualifiers and Champions League games.
Rattue is right on the money, if you'll pardon the expression. The magnitude of this affront to fair play and to sport is indeed frightening. And he calls on FIFA to get tough; read on:
So go hard Fifa and every other soccer authority dealing with this. As a starting point, don't follow the lead of cricket, which would welcome back the devil himself so long as he could bowl a handy outswinger. Soccer must admit to shock and outrage, be ruthless in finding the culprits, or demanding that they be found, and in banning the scumbags for life. Whoever needs to be thrown out of the game should be thrown out, for good, no matter how big or small they are.
This feels like a point at which soccer must consider it will sink or swim - draconian punishments and deterrents, plus an emphasis on educating young players about their responsibilities and the dangers, are part of the answer. Soccer may already have been too soft in places like Italy where scandals have been uncovered previously. The time is right to get really tough.
At this point we disagree with Chris Rattue. FIFA is no paragon of virtue itself, and any "get tough" policy from football's governing body will be at odds with its own track record. We wouldn't go as far as to say that FIFA has condoned these excesses, but it has turned a blind eye to some very dodgy stuff within, whilst micromanaging the sport.
Accordingly, we have even less confidence in FIFA to eradicate this blight on the game as we do in the ICC; and that's saying something! It's just sad some wonderful moments of sporting theatre may now not be as they seemed.