Belfast Telegraph

Swedish police target match-fixers as ex-Premier League player is linked to case

The head of a new police unit set up to fight organised crime in Swedish sport is investigating four cases of possible match-fixing.

Chief inspector Fredrik Gardare was speaking on the day The Times reported that a former Premier League player has been questioned about a conspiracy to fix a Swedish top-flight game between IFK Gothenburg and AIK in May.

According to The Times and Swedish media, AIK goalkeeper Kenny Stamatopoulos was offered £180,000 to "under-perform" by a former team-mate two days before the game.

Stamatopoulos, a former Canada international, informed the Swedish football authorities and the match was postponed.

No charges have been announced yet and neither Gardare nor the Swedish FA would reveal the ex-player's identity.

But on Friday, Gardare's Stockholm-based unit made two more arrests linked to another match-fixing case, this time an attempt to rig a match between Malmo and Halmstad on October 1.

Gardare said tackling the "growing threat" from organised crime was now a "priority" for the Swedish police and, as well as the four possible cases of match-fixing in football, his unit is also looking at criminal activity in basketball and ice hockey.

Another area of concern for Gardare is corruption related to the representation of players.

"We are seeing more criminals getting into the business of buying and selling players - I think you also have this problem in England," Gardare told Press Association Sport.

"But we are looking at all types of organised crime in Swedish sport, especially in football, and we are ready to cooperate with everybody and anybody."

People have been trying to fix games of football for as long as people have played the game but the threat from organised crime has grown markedly in recent years, largely because of the explosion in sports betting in the Far East, much of it unregulated.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Swedish Football Association secretary general Hakan Sjostrand said: " Football itself doesn't create match-fixing problems - it's betting on football that makes this problem."

Sjostrand said the Gothenburg-AIK case involves "concrete threats from a criminal network" and was a "serious attack on football that we'll never accept".

He said the matter was now an ongoing police case and, while it is always difficult to find enough hard evidence to prosecute, the individuals involved will not be "welcome in the football family".

Sjostrand also said the betting industry must take more responsibility for match-fixing.

"They don't seem to understand that they lose credibility and risk their reputations with some of the betting markets they offer," he said.

" Their pursuit of growth and profit are a main reason in creating these problems, and we are now forced to allocate resources to match-fixing that we could be spending on developing players and coaches.

"We need to make these problems public to show fans and players who these criminals are, because they're trying to destroy our game. Football should be decided on the pitch - it's not wrestling."

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