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Feb 4, 2013

A-League not immune to fixing: Slater

Former Socceroo Robbie Slater has warned Australian football is not immune to match fixing after police in Europe unveiled a massive criminal network that rigged hundreds of matches around the world.

Europol said a five-country probe had identified some 380 suspicious matches targeted by a Singapore-based betting cartel, whose illegal activities stretched to players, referees and officials across the world and at all levels of the game.

Matches included two Champions League games, one of them in England, and World Cup qualifiers, netting criminals more than eight million euros ($A10.44 million).

While the scandal apparently involves some Asian football, there was no suggestion of A-League games or Socceroos games being involved and Slater said it was unlikely match fixing was an issue in Australia.

But the Fox Sports commentator said the wide-spread nature of the findings meant nothing could be ruled out.

Slater was playing with Lens in France when French heavyweights Marseille were relegated because of a bribery scandal in 1994 and speaking to people involved at the time opened his eyes to the existence of match fixing.

"I think anyone can (be involved)," Slater said.

"What my experience in France made me realise is it can happen to anyone, so it's not exclusive to one country.

"You would love to think in Australia, we are good sports and you'd love to think that's the case.

"We're a very new league. I'd be surprised if anything's gone on here but when you look at the amount of competitions that have been mentioned, you can't rule anything out."

Football Federation Australia responded to the scandal by releasing a statement reaffirming its commitment to "protecting the integrity of Australian football against match fixing".

However it did not specify if it would be seeking further information on which matches were under question.

FFA commenced an 18-month agreement with independent betting monitoring organisation Sportradar in December and said it took other preventative measures, including educating athletes on betting and match fixing.

"We are determined in our efforts to eliminate the potential of match fixing from football," FFA chief executive David Gallop said.

Anti-gambling advocate Nick Xenophon called for tougher laws for betting on sport and politics.

The independent senator also wants to know if soccer matches in Australia have been fixed.

"The laws here are inadequate," Senator Xenophon told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

He said ball-by-ball and micro-betting made sports ripe for corruption and match fixing and said the findings from Europol were "very disturbing".

Europol director Rob Wainwright told a news conference in The Hague the fall-out hit at the heart of the world game's reputation.

"It is clear to us that this is the biggest investigation ever into suspected match fixing," Wainwright said.

World governing body FIFA said closer cooperation was needed between football's authorities and law enforcement agencies to crack down on match-fixers.

European governing body UEFA for its part said it was already working with the authorities.

The global policing body's chief Ronald Noble said last November it expected to make arrests in Singapore over last year's Italian illegal betting scandal after links were suspected between one suspect and crime lord Tan Seet Eng or Dan Tan.

As part of investigations, including in Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Finland and Austria, 14 people have already been sentenced to a total of 39 years in prison, Europol said, with more than 100 prosecutions still expected.

At least 425 referees, players and other officials were suspected of involvement, with matches rigged so that major sums of money could be won through betting.

Some 151 suspects were living in Germany, 66 in Turkey and 29 in Switzerland but suspects fixing matches in other parts of Europe and around the world are also being probed, Europol said.

As well as arrests, some two million euros ($A2.61 million) in cash and profits were seized, Europol said.

A further 300 suspicious matches were identified outside Europe in Africa, Asia and South and Central America.

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