Friday, June 19, 2009

Russian Football Rocked By Match-Fixing Scandal

On Wednesday, Russia Today reported that the Russian Football Union was investigating claims of match fixing, following suspicious betting patterns during Terek Grozny's 3-2 win against Krylia Sovetov last Saturday.

As reported in the Russian Premier League roundup on Monday, it was a great result for the Chechen side Terek Grozny as they beat a Krylia outfit that were looking to go top.

Romanian Daniel Pancu gave the home team a 2-0 lead, the 31-year-old scoring in the eighth and 38th minutes.

Krylia striker Evgeni Savin then repeated the feat by getting his own double in the 47th and 51st minutes of play to tie the game.

The hero for Terek was Russian defender Sergeiy Bendz, who won the game with a goal in the 85th minute.RIA Novosti said that Russian sports media reported before the game that one individual had staked $400,000 on a Terek win on the Betfair Internet betting exchange.

Furthermore, despite Krylia being eight places above 10th-placed Terek before the match, some 96 per cent of bets placed were on a home victory. After the news broke, a number of bookmakers stopped taking bets on Terek taking all three points and odds for a home victory dropped rapidly with other bookies.

Russian football has often been plagued by rumours of fixed matches, with Terek's 2004 Russian Cup final triumph over, ironically, Krylia, alleged to have been bought for $6 million. The claims have not been proven, however.

RFU President Ashamed
What is a great result to some is match fixing to others. The president of the Russian Football Union, Vitaly Mutko, said he was ashamed of Krylia Sovetov.
“I watched the game and I didn’t like it at all. Every team has its problems. We can say that the flight was difficult, or something else. But every club has its fans, and I am very ashamed of Samara, who has a multimillion army of fans.

The Russian Football Union Commission on Ethics will be analysing this match,” Mutko said to

He added that ultimately it would be a matter for police to deal with.Terek Coach & Chechen President Deny AllegationsTerek's coach Vyacheslav Grozny and the club’s president have denied all the claims, and the Chechen President, and the team’s greatest fan, Ramzan Kadyrov, believes them.“We do not need such fixed victories. I just don’t understand how this is possible. It’s unpleasant even to talk about it. We never rig victories. We are not like that,” Kadyrov said to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

He added that the top teams in the Russian Premier League won’t sell games because they have no shortage of money.

These are interesting developments, as coach Grozny has been critical of referees and was particularly furious after the Chechen side lost 2-1 to Tom Tomsk in West Siberia during matchday seven.After having four goals ruled out in seven games, Grozny had some strong words to say to the Russian media about referees and some “hucksters” that were trying to undermine his team’s cause.

He said, "Someone doesn't want to see Terek in the Premier League. I'm not talking about the Russian Football Union or the Russian Football Premier League [Russian football's governing bodies], but rather some hucksters who don't feature anywhere officially. It looks like there are ways to influence the outcome of games."We are gathering information and will name names."

Krylia Coach Rumoured To Quit
Straight after the match, rumours appeared that Krylia Sovetov coach Leonind Sloutsky would leave his job, despite the club having one of their best seasons in recent years. A win in Grozny would have allowed them to go top of the Russian Premier League ahead of summer break.But the coach himself calmed the fans, announcing that he’ll stay with team.

He also said the Grozny match fitted all the fair play standards, denying the fixing allegations.“This was a real game of football, although, yes, both sides committed a lot of mistakes. As a result, we were losing first, then managed to come back into the game, but in the end conceded a goal. There were a lot of harsh tackles and even injuries. So it’s senseless to speak about match-fixing,” Sloutsky said.
And Krylia’s biggest name, Jan Koller, says he doesn’t believe the game was fixed.The Czech striker didn’t appear on the pitch in the Chechen capital, which also raised suspicions. Later, it was announced that he had suffered an asthma attack.“I don’t think that the Krylia players gave the game away. If I’d found out the game was fixed, I would have left the team,” Koller said.

RPL Won't Investigate
Russian Premier League (RPL) spokesman Igor Budnikov told the press, "There are no grounds on which to carry out an investigation into the match. Furthermore, the RPL is not the organisation to carry out an investigation; this should be done by special bodies. We are, of course, aware that after the game in Grozny there were lots of rumours, but so far there is no proof."

This is not the first scandal involving Terek Grozny. Last year, referees sent an open letter to the RPL and RFU which said they refused to work in Chechnya if cases of psychological and physical pressure on the arbiters continued there.It followed an incident after Terek’s game against Lokomotiv Moscow, when referee Aleksey Kovalev was beaten up by unidentified persons in the Dynamo arena.Back then, Grozny team’s stadium was disqualified and the club was fined 500,000 roubles (around $13,000).

The problem of fixed games exists in Russian football, with one or two suspicious matches every season, says Marc Bennetts, author of 'Football Dynamo - Modern Russia and the People's Game'.

When asked recently by the website as to what percentage of teams were involved in fixed matches outside the Premier League, Andrei Panferov, a defender for Far East Russian side SKA-Energiya, said, "Believe me, a lot. Not just one or two sides."If you have money and I have none, and you give me a certain amount, then you will want something in exchange."I'll take the money and do want you want. That's how it has always been, not only in football, but also in general in Russia."

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