Commentary: Soccer match-fixing and how to fix it

BY IAN MARTIN | MARCH 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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The world of soccer has never had a pristine reputation.

World football is a sport, like our big four (sorry NASCAR) in the United States, prone to controversy. Most recently, match fixing (soccer to American English translator: rigging a game) was revealed to happen or be suspected of happening in nearly 700 matches worldwide.

Since the news broke, a dastardly plot was revealed. Even though games all over the globe were supposedly influenced, the operation was centralized. Dan Tan, somehow not a super villain, was allegedly running a large match fixing scheme worth millions out of Singapore. The conspiracy may have squeaked in to World Cup qualifying games.

So, sadly, it’s easy to speculate this isn’t a one-off incident. People around the world have now become suspicious of soccer games having pre-determined outcomes like we assume every baseball player is on human growth hormone — save for Bryce Harper.

The question, as always, is what can we do to fix it? Here are three potential solutions. Hope you’re listening, FIFA.

The stoppage clock

Stoppage time was first brought into soccer in 1891 after a goalie kicked the ball out of the field with a 1-0 lead and two minutes left, according to a legitimate source linked to the “association football” Wikipedia page. The governing body felt the need for a change and added injury time; 122 years later, an amendment to the rule should occur.

Stoppage time is sensible in theory. Whenever the game isn’t being played, the continuous clock is still running. During these stoppages, the referee starts a stopwatch to determine how much time should be added at the end of a half. Yet, the only people who ever know how much stoppage time has accumulated is the referee himself.

Well, this is (the supposedly future sport of) America, and as always, that means people demand transparency.

Similar to current White House questions about what U.S. citizens and press have a right to know, fans should have a right to know how much stoppage time remains. A second clock, perhaps run by someone who’s not the head referee, and displayed publically in the stadium, should be implemented.

The shot clock didn’t hurt basketball; in fact it launched it into a faster, more popular game. The injury clock — name not final — would help soccer’s reputation with no downside.

Video replay

Another area could be easily reviewed, yet isn’t: goal line and offside plays. While all of the big four in the U.S. use video replay in some capacity, some of the worlds most watched sporting events are subject to the missed calls of three people on the field.

It wouldn’t have to halt the game every foul, just used on close offside and close goals. Most of the time, the television crew can figure it out in under a minute, so there’s no reason a guy or girl in a booth at the stadium can’t figure it out. If people complain about the delays, just add the extra time taken from the actual game and put it on the stoppage clock.

Sanction Singapore

Since the NCAA’s method of righting wrongs is so effective, lets apply it to the similarly loony FIFA. Dan Tan was running his operation out of Singapore, so come down hard on their national side.

It’s important to make an example of wayward nations, and we can’t make exceptions for those playing poorly. Yes, Singapore is 158th in the world in the most recent FIFA rankings. And sure, the Lions, (as they’re affectionately known in their gum-free city-state) aren’t going to qualify for the 2014 World Cup after a poor campaign that included a 7-1 loss to Iraq. But Dan Tan is a man with a plan who can act again.

Punish the nation he ran his operation out of, not the system that makes it possible, and you’ll solve all the problems in the organization.

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