The Big Fix: The Hunt for the Match-Fixers Bringing Down Soccer

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9780062308078: The Big Fix: The Hunt for the Match-Fixers Bringing Down Soccer

Game of Shadows meets Among the Thugs in this revelatory true-to-life crime thriller and expose involving greed, corruption, an Asian crime syndicate, and the fixing of international soccer matches at the highest levels of the game, including the UEFA Champions League and the World Cup.

In February 2013, the director of Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, made the shocking announcement that 700 international soccer matches had been fixed since 2008, including World Cup qualifying and exhibition matches, with a Chinese criminal syndicate pulling the strings. For the first time, investigative journalist Brett Forrest takes us inside the underworld of one of organized crime's most profitable businesses—a $1 trillion annual international betting market, of which soccer comprises 70 percent.

Forrest uncovered a web of nefarious dealings across the world, even on U.S. soil. As he found, no match is safe—not even the World Cup tournament—and law enforcement officials lack the resources to stop it. But one man has taken this criminal enterprise on: Chris Eaton, former head of security for FIFA. Now with the International Center for Sports Security in Qatar, this rough and tumble Australian and longtime Interpol cop has tracked down some of the biggest fixers and their financial backers and continues his mission to clean up the world's most popular sport.

Filled with headline making revelations, The Big Fix is must reading for soccer fans and true crime aficionados.

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Review:

Brett Forrest Explains the Origin of The Big Fix

"It all started in a bull session with Donnie Kwak, my editor at ESPN The Magazine. Donnie had been bird-dogging some soccer games that didn’t add up. He and I knew very little about match-fixing. But it didn’t take an expert to understand that when one national team beats another by a dozen goals, there’s probably more to the story. Was there ever. Once I began investigating the phenomenon of modern match-fixing—the manipulation of soccer games for the purpose of illegal betting—I didn’t get far before I realized that I was sitting on a grave and fundamentally important story that held implications far beyond sports. My two-year journey had begun. There’s nothing new about fixing. People have manipulated sporting matches since the beginning of organized athletics. Early on, motivation hewed to the political and the personal (let my team win in front of our hometown fans, and I’ll return the favor), and in some places and instances, it still does today. Gambling has also played a central role over the centuries, with the 1919 World Series a particular case in point. However, I learned quickly in my reporting that what’s happening now in soccer is unprecedented. And it might be unstoppable. I was lucky to encounter Chris Eaton early in my research. Eaton was the head of security at FIFA at the time. To me, he was instantly likeable, precisely in the ways that a bureaucrat would find him infuriating. Nearly everyone who had a stake in the game—FIFA execs, national soccer federation officials, players and coaches, sponsors—couched the scourge of match-fixing in apologetic terms. Or they avoided discussion of it entirely. Not Eaton. Whereas soccer administrators threw up their hands in resigned, falsely worldly understanding, Eaton approached match-fixing like the cop that he had always been. He wanted to map the crime, understand it, wipe it out. He appeared to grasp a fundamental truth that escaped others, that match-fixing threatened the game of soccer itself. After all, why do we watch the games? Because we don’t know how they’ll turn out. If we begin to believe, based on available evidence, that the sport is rigged, it stands to reason that our interest will fade. And what of the game then? Eaton was only half of the cops-and-robbers story, as it began to envelop me. The other half was Wilson Perumal, a shadowy figure squirreled away in Budapest, a guest of the local constabulary. Perumal, a Singaporean, was the most infamous match-fixer in the world. Understanding his story allowed me to peer into the sophisticated, underground world of the fixer and his backers in global organized crime. Perumal’s rise and fall and subsequent rise mirrored the evolution of the international gambling market, how the proliferation of the Internet and the growth of the Chinese economy very nearly reinvented gambling as we know it. Getting to Perumal himself provided its own adventure. When I explain modern match-fixing to people who are unfamiliar with it, I’m met with a uniform reaction: stunned silence, followed by a round of feverish questions. This is a shocking crime, particularly because it’s playing out right in front of us. How did it happen? Why does it continue? The Big Fix tells that story."


From the Back Cover:

Can the most beloved sport in the world beat the corruption that threatens to tear it apart?

Known as the "beautiful game," soccer is the world's most popular sport, crossing borders and language barriers to entertain billions. But underneath it all—the raucous fans in the stadiums; the beloved players; and FIFA, the international governing body with a membership of 209 national associations—is a scandal that threatens to make soccer the ugliest sport in the world. An underworld of international gambling rings, corrupt players and officials, and shadowy figures preys on the far-flung edges of the game, making match-fixing in soccer one of organized crime's new, profitable businesses.

Now, for the first time, journalist Brett Forrest takes us inside the $700 billion international soccer betting market. In 2013 Europol revealed that more than 700 international matches have been fixed since 2008. Forrest pulls back the curtain, exposing a web of nefarious dealings across the world, even on U.S. soil, with opportunistic fixers bribing players, influencing officials, and staging fake matchups, while Asian criminal syndicates pull the strings. No match is safe—not even the World Cup tournament—especially while local law enforcement officials lack the resources and the will to investigate.

But one man has taken on this criminal enterprise: Chris Eaton, a hardheaded Australian, longtime Interpol director, and the former head of security for FIFA. Forrest follows Eaton's journey from local beat cop to FIFA's security chief for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. It was at this competition that Eaton first grasped the extent of match-fixing and the threat it posed to the game. From that point on, Eaton made it his mission to track down the elusive perpetrators: fixers who shed identities, crisscross borders, and target players and clubs on behalf of international criminal syndicates.

Filled with headline-making revelations, The Big Fix is a must-read for soccer fans and true crime aficionados. The story brings us inside Chris Eaton's hunt for the world's biggest fixers and their backers—from the roots of fixing in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, to FIFA headquarters in Zurich and World Cup preparation in South Africa and Qatar, to fixing's expansion into nearly every country in the world—and the fight to save the beautiful game.

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