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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soccer Awash in Match-Fixing Scandals

Corruption scandals are nothing new in Russian football, but this season the allegations of match fixing have been flying thick and fast.

And the season isn't over yet.

Champions CSKA Moscow lost 2-0 in Samara on Wednesday, leaving them just three points ahead of Spartak Moscow with two games left to play. An exciting end to the season seems guaranteed.

But for some football watchers the reality is far murkier. Komsomolskaya Pravda, the nation's bestselling newspaper, reported one current theory on Thursday -- that CSKA had thrown the game against Krylya Sovietov in an attempt to deflect the allegations of dirty dealing that have dogged the army side all season.

Another tabloid, Tvoi Den, reported that Krylya Sovietov had been "stimulated" to win by the promise of $1 million from CSKA's bitter rival, Spartak.

"There have never been so many protests from the clubs," said Andrei Malosolov, spokesman for the Russian Football Union. Malosolov admitted that match fixing does happen in professional football, but said that most of the claims were unfounded.

"The situation has devolved into paranoia," he said.

Blaming poor results on corrupt referees and dishonest opponents is hardly unique to Russia, but the situation here is different in that nearly everyone in the game admits that Russian football has a match-fixing problem -- although the clubs firmly deny any wrongdoing.

Igor Shevchenko, chief analyst for Shans bookmakers, has estimated that there has been one fixed match in every round of the second half of this season.

Bookies regularly receive tips from players who know when the fix is in, said Oleg Zhuravsky, acting director of the National Bookmakers Association. No one is paid for the information, he added.

Last month, Spartak Nalchik president Andzur Belimgotov said the club had received "calls from various 'top offices' at a number of federal institutions requesting 'assistance' in throwing a game to one of the Moscow clubs."

Belimgotov said he had rejected the request. He said some of his players had also been approached.

When bookmakers sense that the fix is in, the odds for the winning team drop and no bets over 500 rubles ($18.72) are accepted.

"Take the Rostov-Luch match," Shevchenko said of one of last Wednesday's games. The odds on Rostov were reduced to between 1 and 15, but people kept betting on Rostov all the same.

During the season, teams play one another twice. Shevchenko speculated that Rostov and Luch had agreed to split the 6 points available from their head-to-head encounters -- a classic Soviet-era scheme.

"What a farce!" the Sport Express newspaper opined last month after Krilya Sovietov beat Tomsk 2-1. It suggested that the teams had stopped trying after the third goal was scored. The reaction was much the same when Tomsk lost 2-1 to Luch.

The 2-1 score line is regarded as the most popular for fixed games, because it looks less suspicious than 1-0, said Boris Bogdanov, a senior football writer at Sport Express.

Most suspect matches do not involve the top teams, but the most controversial figure in the league is CSKA president Yevgeny Giner.

Giner, who is president of the Premier League as well as CSKA, has been accused by players, other club presidents and opposing fans of using his clout to influence referees. His name also figures in the acronym GVK, often used by opposing fans and critics of the club, which stands for "Giner vsyo kupil," or "Giner has bought everything."

Giner has repeatedly denied any impropriety. "To be honest, I am bored of it," he said. "The people who make these accusations are trying to bring us [CKSA] to our knees."

Spartak captain Yegor Titov complained earlier in the season that CSKA had fixed its game against Tom, and complained that wherever Spartak went an armored bank truck was sure to follow.

Titov was talking about the practice -- which is not illegal under league rules -- of third parties paying clubs to give them extra incentive to beat or draw with a particular opponent.

When Shinnik Yaroslavl scored an equalizer against Spartak earlier this year, "they were as happy as if they had just won the league," Shevchenko of Shans bookmakers said. One source said CSKA had paid Shinnik $500,000 to motivate them in that match.

Suspicion of CSKA has united the other clubs. Zenit striker Andrei Arshavin told the Sport Segodnya news web site that CSKA faced no real competition on the pitch -- or anywhere else. Spartak board chairman Leonid Fedun, also a vice president of LUKoil, complained that CSKA made use of "administrative resources."

"Titov and Arshavin have no right to say that," said Malosolov of the RFU. "They should present some proof or stay quiet."

The biggest scandal so far erupted last Sunday, when Zenit was beaten 1-0 by CSKA. The St. Petersburg club asked for the game to be replayed after a series of decisions went against them. Two goals were ruled offside and a dubious penalty was given against Zenit. The referee and linesmen working the match have been suspended through the end of the season.

After the game, outraged St. Petersburg lawmakers asked the Prosecutor General's Office to investigate.

History suggests that the probe will uncover little of interest, however.

No Premier League side has ever been punished for fixing a game, which is a criminal offense.

The coach of first division side Metallurg Lipetsk was banned from football for life this week for having three of his players beaten up after they protested against games being fixed.

Some see all the protests as a hopeful sign.

"It's not because there are more [fixed games], but because society has become less tolerant," said Yury Belous, the head of Premier League side Moskva.

Nothing will change in the game until law enforcement seriously goes after a club, or someone is brave enough to admit publicly to having participated in fixing a match, said Bogdanov of Sport Express. This is how corruption finally came to light in Italy and France, he said.

"People who have been in Russian football for a long time know how to do it, and with whom," said Spartak spokesman Vladimir Shevchenko, who insisted his club was above reproach. "But talking openly about it would be like shooting themselves in the foot."