Belgian Girls U16 Match-Fixing Offer Claimed, but Questions Remain

Every so often there’s an intriguing story that drifts across the periphery of the sports-wagering world that somehow doesn’t add up. The latest example: A story appearing at Inside World Football about three players from Belgium’s U16 women’s football team, who were reportedly offered huge sums of money to… well… play poorly in an international tournament earlier this year.

The report offered by the three 15-year-old girls to the KBVB (Royal Belgian Football Association) quickly triggered an investigation, not in the least part because of the huge Belgium-centered football scandal that erupted in October. That scandal continues to develop, with 19 people arrested, four of the country’s top clubs saw their office raided, and dozens of other executives, referees and players in other countries are also involved.

Now that’s a scandal. Then there’s this U16 thing. According to Inside World Football, and to KBVB integrity officer Thibault De Gendt, who spoke about the matter to Belgium’s Parliament, there’s this other matter as well. With the nod to IWB, they’re the only one reporting the story, and it’s necessary to reproduce their quotes of De Gendt’s talk here:

“It concerns three girls of 15,” De Gendt said. “After a training (session) they were approached by a Turkish man who offered them $50,000 each to influence a game.”

“The girls immediately informed the KBVB. Subsequently, the international unions (UEFA and FIFA) were informed, and the federal prosecutor’s office as well. The research is still ongoing.

“With this example, I want to show that match fixing can indeed take place at every level of football’, said De Gendt. “Also in youth football. It therefore remains very important to inform players from an early age and to warn them of the dangers of match fixing. We will continue to use this as a football association in the future.”

Let’s start there. First, match-fixing and the ongoing efforts to combat it are a big, big deal. That said, there are a couple of things about this story that don’t really pass the smell test. According to the IWB story, each of the 15-year-old players was offered US $50,000 (more than 44,000 euros) to “influence” the game.

Think about that “investment” by the supposed match fixers. In order to make that $150,000 payoff worthwhile, and worth all the extra risk, they’d have to betting a million or two on the game, even if spread out through a syndicate. It doesn’t matter, because, how would it be possible to put one million or two million dollars’ worth of action on a U16 women’s match and not have it draw attention or radically change some odds?

It makes no sense. I don’t buy that each of these players was really and truly offered $50,000, barring more evidence.

Next, re-read that first paragraph of the quote above. Exactly how did these three 15-year-olds know that the would-be match-fixer was Turkish? Was the guy handing out business cards or something? And how does some random Turkish dude get access to these underage female players anyhow?

Now, I’m not saying that the supposed bribe attempt didn’t occur; I’m just saying that the story being told is suspect. If it really happened, I sure hope they find the alleged briber and his cohorts. Yet I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out this was an example of three kids deciding to take a bad idea and run with it for no more than the excitement and attention. It doesn’t matter whether they’re girls or boys; it’s just that kids in general — and tremendously skilled football players or not, they’re still kids — sometimes do odd things.

We’ll keep an eye on this story to see if it resurfaces. But let’s face it; there’s a good chance it won’t.