Ex-Man U star slams gambling culture in S’pore

S'pore police are helping Europol on the global matchfixing probe. (Reuters photo)S'pore police are helping Europol on the global matchfixing probe. (Reuters photo)

By Paul Parker (original post from Yahoo! UK Eurosport can be found here)

I can't say I was surprised when I heard that Europol's match-fixing investigation centred on a cartel in Singapore.

I have been living in Singapore for a couple of years because I work for TV out here.

In many ways it's a great place to live, but I'm afraid the gambling culture is a massive problem.

For many people, football is a bit like horse racing in the UK - it's just a vehicle for betting.

People out here love to wager -- they favour handicap betting where one team gets a head start. It's absolutely huge.

And unfortunately in Singapore, and throughout South-East Asia, there's not a lot of integrity in the gambling world.

In Singapore nobody takes football seriously as a sport, because if anything unusual happens, they ask if money has changed hands.

They like the Premier League when the goals fly in, but you can forget about an in-depth appreciation of the game.

And the domestic league has never taken off - people just don't care because they're not in it for the sport. They're in it for the money. I feel really sorry for the players, who have to play in front of empty stadiums every week.

It's not good for the profile of the country, which is so developed in many ways - but sport helps you build cultural bridges and this part of the world can't do that until football becomes about the sport rather than the money-making opportunities, and the authorities get serious about stamping out corruption.

As a player, I never saw any match-fixing. Agreeing to throw a match is the worst crime you can commit as a professional.

You are cheating your team, your fans and the entire game.

I was never offered cash to do anything like that, but if I had been I would have refused on the spot.

There's no way back once you have crossed that line. How could you ever give 100 per cent or look your team-mates in the face?

I don't think it's in the British mentality.

However, what did go on - though not at the clubs I played for - was betting on things like the first throw-in, then booting the ball straight out from the kick-off.

People used to see it as a bit of fun, but as soon as you start doing anything other than playing to win, you take the integrity out of the game.

Any club found to have been involved in match-fixing by this investigation should be banned from all competitions for a year. Any players involved should be banned for life.

You need to make the chance of getting caught, and the punishments meted out, so great that no player is willing to take the risk.

Paul Parker enjoyed a distinguished career for club and country. The versatile defender won 19 England caps and played the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany. After spells at Fulham and QPR, Paul joined Manchester United in 1991, where he helped the club claim their first league title for 26 years, and won the Double twice. During six seasons at Old Trafford, he played with legends such as Eric Cantona, Roy Keane and David Beckham.