Italian football’s match-fixing: prosecutors are targeting the wrong heads on the Hydra

The latest shockwaves to course through Italian football involve Antonio Conte, banned for ten months from coaching Juventus for not reporting match-fixing and Serie B player Emanuele Pesoli, whose melodramatic reaction to his three-year ban for match-fixing was to go on hunger strike and chain himself to the gates of the Italian Football Federation. The draconian sentences came about as a result of the work of a recently-launched match-fixing task force. Their efforts have seen police search more than 30 homes of players, trainers and administrators as well as ban seventeen other players for their part in match-fixing.

For an organisation that has the ability to involve the police and government forces in its goal of eradicating match-fixing, it is remarkable how little focus the task-force seems to have placed on targeting the progenitors of betting rings. Banning players who move to the beck and call of shadowy mafia will accomplish little in the long run, apart from them waiting patiently for their chance to infiltrate football once again. 17 players have been banned, but only five people were arrested in Hungary on suspicion of being part of an illegal betting cartel. These are the people who form the heart of the problem, and scything off its branches in the form of players and football figures without targeting them will solve nothing. Given that match-fixing in football is well-established across Eastern Europe, it will take a coordinated effort by UEFA, every national football federation affected and government forces to root out evils that have accompanied human endeavour since the beginning of time and will continue to tempt players in the future. It is the job of these institutions to ensure that football is as highly regulated and protected as other businesses and civilian interests from the corrosive plague of mafia.