Name, shame, jail!
It is a month now since the curtain on the 2020/2021 Ghana Premier League (GPL) season was lowered with reports of match-fixing blighting an otherwise gleaming campaign.
The incident that tainted the season like a drop of prussic acid, was the AshantiGold SC v Inter Allies game which saw a defender of Allies – Hashmin Musah intentionally hoofing two balls into his own net – on the final day of the season.
The already-relegated Allies slumped 7-0 after the stipulated time, sending tongues wagging as to how a player could deliberately poke two goals into his own net and gleefully defending his sordid action.
Musah came on against AshantiGold with the score at 5-0 and did his own thing in the final 12 minutes.
According to the player, his action was to throw a monkey wrench in the works of an alleged match-fixing plot, adding that his team mates even congratulated him for spoiling the ‘pre-agreed’ scoreline put in place for betting reasons.
“I heard it in our hotel that a bet had been made for a correct scoreline of 5-1 against my club Inter Allies. I promised my coach that if he allows me to play from the bench, I will spoil the bet. And after the game, my team congratulated me,” Musah told Kumasi FM.
“I decided to spoil that bet because I don’t condone betting.”
Good as his intentions may be, Musah did not help matters as he rather aided in bringing the game into disrepute – hence the call by stakeholders to investigate the case – and all other games whose upshot and general play, looked all-too suspicious in the final days of the season.
It is commendable to see the Ghana Football Association (GFA) rope in the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service to prowl and institute a snake-pit inquisition into the matter and possibly smoke out the culprits.
The investigations must ensure that all other persons of interest in the said case be arrested to face the full rigours of the law.
From the grapevine, the CID is making some inroads and would in no time make some arrests, prosecute and jail the perpetrators.
Nobody must be shielded if we really are determined to save our football from slipping into a nadir of further disgrace – and humiliation.
Match fixing carries criminal punishment for both the bettor or sports book that arranged the fixing as well as any players that find themselvesin the act. Punishments vary from country to country. However, any individual found guilty of fixing a sporting event runs the risk of receiving stiff criminal punishments ranging from severe fines to imprisonment.
In many jurisdictions, scandals as match-fixing are treated as second degree felony. Generally, second-degree felonies, punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment, include intentional and unlawful harm to persons, perjury, and robbery. Misdemeanors, punishable by various terms of imprisonment, include assault, theft, unlawful assembly, official corruption, and public nuisances.
The penalties associated with match fixing activities clearly demonstrate the seriousness of this behaviour.
While those involved with match fixing face severe consequences if they are caught, fans suffer, too. Fans either see their team perform worse than they should or are hurt if the team later faces sanctions. The individuals most injured are the bettors or books who are victims of the fraud, who lose out on money on what was believed to be a fair bet.
Innocent players also fall victim to their teammates’ illicit actions. As the matches are happening, the players who are giving their all and trying to win are unaware that despite their best efforts their teammates are working to ensure that they are not successful. Additionally, any sanctions handed down on a team hurt the innocent players as much as the cheaters.
Aside the jail sentences of players and officials, clubs could also suffer severe sanctions to serve as deterrent to other potential law breakers.
On July 14, 2006, a long-awaited verdict on the infamous Italian match-fixing scandal left three of the four top clubs implicated, relegated to Serie B whilst all four clubs started the following season with points deductions.
Juventus were hit hardest as they began the season at the bottom of Serie B with a 30-point penalty. They were stripped of their Serie A titles for 2004/5 and 2005/6 and barred from taking the Champions League spot that goes with the title. Fiorentina were relegated with a 12-point deduction and missed out on their Champions League spot.
Lazio also joined them in Serie B with a seven-point penalty and stripped of their UEFA Cup place. The fourth club to be implicated, AC Milan, escaped relegation but started their campaign in the top-flight with a 15-point handicap. Like the others, they were not allowed to compete in the Champions League the following season.
The penalties were imposed by a special committee set up to investigate match-fixing and interference with referees beginning in the season 2004/5. Police were listening-in to telephone conversations involving Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi as part of the investigation into a separate scandal of doping in Serie A football. What they heard was a conversation between Moggi arranging for certain matches officials to be appointed to certain games. Further investigations implicated Juventus further and also brought the other three clubs into the fray.
On March 28, 2007, Ghana football witnessed one of its most controversial and embarrassing matches ever as Nania FC, Okwawu United, Mighty Jets and Great Mariners were all involved in a Division One game.
The upshot was that the clubs were demoted and fined $20,000 each, while their players were also suspended for the rest of that season and the next campaign.
It is not too clear what the AshantiGold v Inter Allies investigations would bring forth. But whatever it is, nobody should be shielded or treated with kid’s gloves. The perpetrators must be named, shamed and jailed to serve as a disincentive to other potential criminals.
PlainTalk With JOHN VIGAH