The detective leading the investigation into alleged football match fixing in Sweden believes that criminal networks are ‘using football agents to pressure players to fix matches’.
There are also serious concerns emerging that youngsters in lower leagues may fall foul to accepting cash early on in their careers that gangs could as leverage later on.
Far East gambling firms’ interest in Under-19s leagues is also coming under the spotlight – said to be ‘out of control’.
MirrorOnline reported yesterday how former Premier League star Dickson Etuhu is reported to be ‘at the centre’ of an inquiry into a goalkeeper allegedly being offered £180,000 to ‘under perform’ in a high profile clash in the Swedish top-flight.
Etuhu – who used to play for Manchester City, Sunderland and Fulham before moving to play in Sweden before becoming a football agent – has been questioned voluntarily under caution over the allegations, which he denies.
The investigation into what is fast becoming one of the biggest scandals ever to hit European football is being led by Detective Chief Inspector Fredrik Gardare.
He told The Times today: “Football involves a lot of money and the fees paid to these agents have increased and that has attracted individuals whom police are already well familiar with.
“The ones that do the match-fixing are separate networks, but they have contact with each other. It’s reasonable to think that, if you want to make even more money, if you already have something on a player or a manager, you can make use of that for match fixing.
Gardare goes on to surmise it is “difficult” for a young players starting out to understand what goes on behind-the-scenes – and urged and to be “cautious when they are contacted especially by someone bearing gifts”.
“They should think ‘Why am I getting this money?’ and understand it could lead to problems in the future,” he adds.
The police investigation into what exactly happened to cause the Gothenburg’s match against AIK Stockholm in May to be postponed is said to be now “in its final phase”.
The Times claims that Etuhu attended an interview voluntarily and was quizzed about the match which was called off after AIK goalkeeper Kenny Stamatopoulos told authorities he’d been approached two days before kick-off by an unnamed former team-mate.
The 38-year-old Greek-Canadian reserve keeper claimed that he was offered around £180,000 to ‘under-perform’ when he was due to step in after an injury to the club’s No.1.
Wages in Sweden are considerably less than in the Premier League – with players earning around £2,000 a week.
The secretary general of the FA, Hakan Sjostrand, claimed that Far East gambling on the football was ‘out of control’.
He said: “We have an under-19 league, and many of them are young kids and some of them are under 18. Yet there are more than 80 betting companies in the East who have betting markets on the Swedish under-19 league… we can’t control it.
“There is always a dark side with betting. This problem must not be swept under the carpet. To kick this away we need to say in public who these people are who are trying to destroy football.”
The Swedish FA’s secretary general Hakan Sjostrand claimed the person at the centre of the allegations concerning the match that was called off was offered a “very large amount of money” and talked of alleged “veiled threats”.
He told The Times: “It was a mixture of money and concrete threats, special circumstances that convinced me that we cannot play this match. We needed to protect this goalkeeper – what would happen if he made a mistake.
“This was important for the game and the reputation of football. It is not football that creates this match-fixing problem, it is betting.”
Quizzed on Swedish TV, Stamatopoulos said only: “I just hope the right thing happens.
“What happened was a shock and now the procedure has been dealt with in a good manner and I just hope the outcome is good, of any kind that is.”