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New York Times report: World Cup games vulnerable to match fixing

Just weeks ahead of the World Cup opening games in Brazil, The New York Times has obtained an internal report and related documents from soccer’s governing body FIFA that highlights concerns over match fixing during the World Cup.

In the unreleased documents, FIFA reportedly highlights the global soccer tournament’s susceptibility to match fixing. More specifically, it uncovered a match-rigging syndicate that had access to top-level referees for the purpose of rigging exhibition matches for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

In the lead up to the 2010 tournament “at least five matches and possibly more” were allegedly fixed. The 44-page report details specific instances where fixers had access to referees. In one instance a referee deposited a large sum of cash just hours prior to officiating an exhibition game between South Africa and Guatemala.

“Were the listed matches fixed?” the report said. “On the balance of probabilities, yes!”

In the report FIFA did not accuse any individuals by name, but concluded that South African officials had probably played a role in the rigging.

Beyond the findings from the last World Cup, the organization also stressed that many of the teams headed to Brazil next month were equally as vulnerable as those in South Africa.

This news comes just days after news that a friendly match between Nigeria and Scotland came under fire with suspicions of being rigged. During the 32 minute of the game Nigeria’s goalkeeper seemingly threw the ball into his own net. The goal was not counted, but later in the game a Nigerian player scored an own-goal with the match eventually ending in a tie.

British authorities launched an investigation into the suspicious game, while FIFA’s head of security, Ralf Mutschke, said he could not say the World Cup was immune to this sort of match fixing.

“We are not expecting fixers to be traveling to Brazil and knocking on the hotel door of players or referees, but I know there will have been approaches to players and referees,” Mutschke said.

The first round of World Cup games are set to take place on June 12 in cities throughout Brazil.