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Match-fixing expert: Credibility of handball is at risk

The European Handball Federation has neither dealt with the serious suspicions of match-fixing sufficiently thoroughly nor correctly, says expert.

Any sensible, normal person reading the Sportradar report would doubt the credibility of European handball.

That is the opinion of Declan Hill, a world-leading match-fixing expert.

He is an investigative journalist, with a PhD degree from Oxford University, and author of several books on match-fixing. Declan Hill has read the report on suspected match-fixing by the Sportradar analyst and monitoring firm. A report known to the EHF since 2018.

Even though the report presents a chain of only circumstantial and not legally damning evidence of match-fixing, the information makes an impression and causes concern on behalf of handball, Declan Hill says.

As far as we’ve been informed, the EHF, The European Handball Federation, has not taken any steps towards sanctions such as quarantines against the involved parties mentioned in the report. Would you say that this is responsible leadership?

- Absolutely not. Because there is a problem here. Even though there is no conclusive evidence of actual match-fixing, any sensible, normal person reading this report and the links mentioned in it would doubt the credibility of European handball, he says to TV 2.

Do you have a tip?

If you have knowledge of match-fixing in handball or other forms of cheating in sports that TV 2 should investigate, you can send us an email at matchfixing@tv2.dk. We treat all inquiries confidentially.

The report itself recommends further investigations and analyses. What do you think that should involve?

- First, they should have an independent investigators take a look at these cases.

- Next, a further sports gambling monitoring company, apart from Sportradar to protect independence should be commissioned to monitor connections inside the sport between referees, players and potential corruptors; as well as the betting market.

EHF: We analyzed the games ourselves

EHF President Michael Wiederer has refused to give an interview on the Sportradar report, and the Federation has only wanted to send a written reply to TV 2.

Here, EHF Head of Communications and Media Thomas Schöneich says that the EHF has passed on all information of the report to the relevant authorities and that – with an investigation still ongoing – they cannot comment on the matter.

Moreover, the EHF informs us that having themselves analyzed the games mentioned in the report, they have not found any reason to impose sanctions on any of the eight referee pairs.

Hill: Modern Match-fixing is a ‘marriage’

Declan Hill takes special note of the co-called ‘social network analyses (SNA) made by the report. The analyses have, according to the report, demonstrated that handball referee Gjorgji Nachevski and another top referee, who also officiates international handball matches, “have disturbingly close links” to high-ranking members of and around a network called The Gypsy Clan.

- If the Gypsy Clan is close to the handball referees it is a massive issue. These guys have a long, long form as fixers. They have traveled around the world to fix games. They are not part-timers but legally-convicted match-fixers. Any sports organization wishing to preserve its credibility would place them on a list of people to be avoided.

The Sportradar report describes how The Gypsy Clan can be linked to a 2011 spectacular match-fixing scandal within Italian soccer. In this case, known as Calcioscommesse, a large number of soccer players from lower-ranking leagues, especially in the Italien B Series, were quarantined for years. This happened because the authorities found them to have been instrumental in fixing a number of matches.

At the time, the police discovered that players had ties to The Gypsy Clan, who together with Asian match-fixers had been earning millions of euros on bets linked to the fixed Italian football matches. Those kinds of ‘cooperation agreements’ are well-known among criminals, says Declan Hill, who has met and interviewed numerous match-fixers.

- Modern match-fixing is a business ‘marriage’ between ‘local’ and Asian fixers. ‘Local’ fixers corrupt the game and bribe referees, players or team officials. Asian fixers corrupt the betting market. They are the experts in concealing whether there is corruption going on in a game

The EHF stresses in a written answer to TV 2 that even if the report indicates potential ties to The Gypsy Clan, it is important to the EHF that the criminal group has not been involved in manipulating games in other sports than soccer.

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