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Still a long way to an Irish Grand Slam rugby victory

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Betting syndicates in the Far East are believed to be behind the scandal, with reports that they made a profit of some €8million on a €2million investment in recent seasons.

That figure, however, is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the investigation is concerned.

Some experts say the Far East criminal gangs could even turn over more annually than sportswear giants Nike in their illegal trade.

The reports say they have targeted players and referees in their efforts to fix matches and police believe the problem is far more widespread than many would believe.

One game already under investigation is Liverpool’s Champions League qualifier against the Hungarian side Debrecen in 2009 when a Dirk Kuyt goal proved to be the only score in the match at Anfield.

It has since emerged that the Debrecen goalkeeper was bribed to concede three or more goals in the game, but Liverpool couldn’t manage that many goals in the match.

What that says about the Liverpool forwards on the night, including one Fernando Torres, is another story.
But there is little doubt that this match fixing scandal is serious and threatens the very fabric of the game with hundreds of players now cast under a cloud.

Proving it is going to be the hard thing but professional football has got to sit up and take notice of this scandal.

Sideline Views
SOCCER: The madness continues. Nottingham Forest parted company with manager Alex McLeish on Tuesday, just six weeks after they sacked Sean O’Driscoll at a time when they were still in the top five of the Championship. McLeish couldn’t see eye to eye with the club’s Kuwaiti owners apparently and is now out of work. Who would want to be a football manager and who would want to take charge at Forest? Roy Keane apparently, so watch this space.

GOLF: Padraig Harrington was blown away by the crowds at the Phoenix Open over the weekend when over 500,000 fans attended the noisiest tournament in golf. The par three 16th is the loudest hole in golf, and tournament debutant Harrington now knows just why. He’s promised to return next year to make some more noise after a top 10 finish returned him to the top 50 in the world rankings, something to shout about.

RUGBY: Rob Kearney won’t be following Jonathon Sexton’s lead after announcing that he is to stay put with Leinster after agreeing a new deal with the IRFU. Just last week Kearney admitted that Ireland’s top players would be tempted by the sort of money Sexton will earn with Racing Metro in Paris, but clearly home is where the heart is for the full-back from the Cooley Peninsula.

SOCCER: Mick McCarthy had such a bad dose of the flu on Saturday that he stayed away from the Ipswich game at home to Middlesbrough and left his assistant Terry Connor in charge. The end result – Ipswich won 4-0. And Mick felt a whole lot better watching from his sick bed on a special TV feed of the game.

RUGBY: Conor Murray told reporters at the Irish rugby team press conference on Tuesday that he can’t wait to taste victory over England in the Six Nations. The Munster youngster has yet to experience such a feeling, so Sunday’s game at the Aviva Stadium would be the perfect place to break that duck.

SOCCER: The waiter in a coffee shop next to the Northern Ireland team hotel is set to make his debut for Malta in Wednesday night’s friendly in Valetta. I kid you not. His name is Jacob Borg and he is half-Australian and half Maltese.

HERO OF THE WEEK
SIMON Zebo’s flick in the lead-up to Cian Healy’s try against Wales on Saturday is already the stuff of YouTube legend, so you should get to see if you haven’t already done so. More importantly, Zebo’s all around contribution against the Welsh was just brilliant and offers real hope of an Irish upset against England in Dublin this coming Sunday. Now that’s something we’d all enjoy.

IDIOTS OF THE WEEK
THE GAA have decided that Kerry’s NFL game against Dublin in Killarney will clash with the Ireland-England rugby game on Sunday which doesn’t do anyone a favor. GAA fans in the Kingdom will have to rush out of the game to catch the second half of the rugby, or stay away from the Division One fixture. No one wins thanks to a complete lack of common sense in this instance.

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