Five Dutch nationals have been implicated in a massive pan-European investigation into match-fixing in football, Dutch media reported on Monday.
The probe, carried out by the EU policing organisation Europol, has identified 380 matches across the continent which it says were fixed by an Asia-based crime syndicate.
The Dutch football association said it understood five Dutch individuals are involved but ‘it is not clear what form that involvement took’, spokesman Gijs de Jong is quoted as saying.
De Jong was also unable to say if the five were involved in matches involving Dutch clubs. ‘That is not clear. They may well have been involved in games abroad. That is certainly not out of the question,’ he said.
Frank Rutten, director of the premier division clubs’ company Eredivisie CV, said the Europol report is ‘extremely worrying’.
‘Bribery is one of the biggest threats in football,’ he said. ‘And it would be naïve to think this could not happen in the Netherlands. But I must add, we have never had any concrete information pointing in that direction.’
Europol said a total of 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals are suspected of being involved in the conspiracy. The investigation lasted 18 months.
Suspect matches include World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, two Champions League ties and ‘several top football matches in European leagues’, Europol said.
Last week, newspaper Spits reported the Dutch health and sports ministry had commissioned Ernst & Young, together with two professors, to investigate reports of match-fixing in Dutch sport.
Last June, Labour MP Jeroen Recourt told the NRC there is a ‘very real chance’ that Dutch football is embroiled in major match-fixing. The MP said tips point to corruption centering on the Jupiler League (first division).
Recourt claimed to have being given ‘multiple’ tips about match-fixing in the Netherlands but declined to give further information.