Match Fixing in Canada Shows Infrastructure Flaws

Match fixing allegations call for institutionalized response, as CSL is unlikely to fix it itself
by Henrik Lonne   |   Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Made in Canada - coverage of the Canadian MLS, NASL & USL Clubs, CSL, PCSL, Canadian Championship & Canada National Teams

It was a sad day when Ben Rycroft announced that he had assisted the CBC in exposing match fixing in the CSL. Other than the match fixing, it revealed that the infrastructure for professional soccer beyond the MLS level in Canada is quite weak and that there is little oversight over the games and the ownership.

The problem is that it doesn’t appear as if the CSL see a big incentive to crack down on the issues. CSL chairman Vince Ursuni took it as a source of pride and recognition that livebetting was available on the CSL. Well, Mr. Ursuni, so is it for the 5th tier in Denmark, the 4th tier in Norway and the Pakistani Premier League. So it is not really that big of deal.

Then there is the fact that he placed the responsibility on FIFA to investigate. This can be seen in different ways. On one hand action has been taken, though one can question how high priority 3rd division semi-pro soccer has for the men in Zurich, but on the other hand it can also very easily be seen as avoiding responsibility. Another factor is that there might simply not be enough resources for the CSL to have proper oversight, which brings us to another entity in Canadian soccer: the CSA. And as the national federation does an audit of the CSL, the quality of this is questionable. While plenty of speculation and wild conspiracy theories could explain why this is, the fact is that the CSA isn’t known for having a lot of money.

Saving money on auditing the domestic leagues and ensuring that owners pass a type of “Fit and proper test” as is also required in the lower tiers of English soccer, can, however, turn out to be expensive in the long run, as the reputation of the sport in the country risks being tarnished beyond repair, and the governing body of the sport cannot afford this. This will not fix everything, but if a franchise costs as little as $150,000 Canadian, and there is minimal supervision and control of ownership, the risk of the match fixers getting involved on a deeper level is too great.

If necessary, the CSA should approach Sport Canada, the government branch that deals with sports in Canada. It should be hard for the CSA to ignore such a threat against the sport that has the largest participation amongst young people in Canada. Regardless of the type of assistance, the CSA (and the CSL) should benefit from it. And if the role of Sport Canada isn’t to assist in the fight against match fixing and corruption in Canadian sports, I really don’t see what it is.

It is clear that in the end it is all about money. It is the big rewards that drive the gangsters to set up the operation, the minimal pay that might persuade the players to accept the fix, and it is the cost of auditing and overseeing the league that might keep things from changing. If there is not a broad response against this problem from all relevant parties, it could seriously get in the way of the growth of the game in Canada. 

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.