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Monday, March 18, 2013

THE NON LEAGUE SECRET FOOTBALLER - MATCH FIXING

Match fixing has been in the news lately and the amount of games under investigation is staggering. I was offered to 'Fix' a game earlier this season along with a few team mates. The phone call was very brief as I declined straight away, not wanting any involvement in it at all. The phone call will always stay in my memory. It came from an intermediary for the fixers - an Englishman - and it seems like yesterday.

I honestly had no hesitation in declining the offer. I couldn't believe what I was hearing from the other end of the phone and couldn't get my head around the fact that so called 'mates' and team mates seemed prepared to make a massive mistake and even consider going through with it. Staggering.

Yes was never an option for me whatever the amount of money on offer as despite what some people think, some footballers do have principles, both in football and life, and one of my big ones is to be honest. I have prided my whole career on being very professional, whether that be in my Football League days or my Non-League days, as I have taken immense pride in what I have achieved and would never cheat my employers who pay my wages. I couldn't believe that I was getting the call and that fellow team-mates were in on the scam. The fee I was quoted was laughable considering the consequences that could follow. My playing career and any plans to be a coach or manager would be jeopardised for money which in all my career hasn't even been that important to me anyway. The main objective is for me to play football and enjoy it, and if I missed any football due to a ban for something so obviously stupid and wrong, I would regret it forever!

The aftermath of any wrong doing would also have serious implications on many people involved in a football club; the chairman that pays players' wages and invests time and money into the club; the management staff that brings in these players to do a job for them and the team but whose livelihoods are affected by these performances and results; or fellow team mates who are towing the line and trying to win games the honest way, putting in untold hard work and graft. All of these people would be conned by a cheat supposedly wanting the same outcome as them, and would eventually be left to pick up the pieces. The best teams stick together and should do through thick and thin, not abandoning all team ethics for a few quid. Inevitably genuine mistakes would start to be questioned and fingers wrongly start to be pointed, with people playing and thinking is that a genuine mistake or a pre-planned “error” that is making someone money? That can only be bad for a players' frame of mind, thinking that however much work you put into a game, the result could be so far out of your control, you may as well not bother! Unfortunately it does make the mind boggle.

The most important people that would be conned by this is the supporters of any club that pay their hard earned money to come watch their team play all over the country week in week out expecting players to run through walls to gain the all-important 3 points so they go home happy. The thought of them being cheated as well makes me angry, as some of these fans especially at lower league level, help out the club in many other capacities for free and are genuine, honest and lovely people that would do anything for their players. Getting involved in anything like this only throws it back in their faces. These fans deserve nothing but hard work and honesty from the players they do their best to support.

I for one though am only going to lose a game if I'm not good enough or if luck is not on my side that specific day not if I'm being handed bribes and basically not trying my best and cheating myself, my management staff, fellow innocent players, supporters and my family. It is just not me. I honestly could not live with myself.

The people targeting players to 'fix' games will obviously look to the lower leagues as the wages will be lower than say an 80k a week player that does not need an extra few grand. The temptation must be there especially as maybe some of these players are semi-professional also with maybe only football money as a main income, who are seeing non-league wages as a whole dwindling over the last few seasons.

Everybody in life has an agenda and football is no different. I can see why some players may be tempted and consider doing the unthinkable. Maybe they're unemployed outside of football, or they have got money worries, whatever they may be, or others who are simply just plain greedy. If someone is offering payments to fix games they may see it as easy money, but me personally, I wouldn't even think about it. It just isn't an option for me and it astounds me that other people would consider it. Its dirty money and the guilty people have to be stopped.

The FA and PFA are always on about Fair Play and Respect well these people are not abiding by either. By doing this they are choosing pound notes over their team mates, managers, chairmen, supporters and even family that have stuck by them whilst their careers have progressed from being a child.

Football is ultimately about winning, but also about enjoying it as well. Money does play a part obviously the higher you go up the pyramid but it should not be the be all and end all. It never has been for me and never will. I recognise I am in a privileged position that millions of men and boys would love to be in. I've been blessed and proud to have the career I’ve had. I occasionally coach children and watch them play without a care in the world and smiles on their faces. It is refreshing to see and that's how the game should be played until the day you stop.

Football gets a bad name for so many different reasons and now that this whole episode has arisen, it just puts football under more scrutiny which is sad. It seems this is a widespread problem all over Europe and even worldwide, and we are wrong to automatically think this doesn’t happen here! There are lots of people not even involved directly in football that want to corrupt the sport to make money, and probably lots of it, and will happily take plenty of other people down the wrong path. It’s amazing what people do when they have the scent of money in their noses. I just hope that those involved whatever the capacity get caught and are severely punished. There is absolutely no place for these people in the game that I love and have given so much to.