23 Jun 2014

Football’s dark side: how to fix a football match

Undercover footage from Channel 4 Dispatches exposes a match agent from Ghana offering to fix an international football game, writes Morland Sanders.

The tail end of rush hour on a Central London street and we’re trying to hide a TV crew. You’d think technology would make that slightly easier but not on this job.

There’s a 6ft-something cameraman, a lens of seemingly similar proportions, a fidgety soundman with his boom and microphone and plenty of other people dotted around hoping things will go to plan.

We are all waiting for a silver Toyota. Slightly behind schedule it arrives, at precisely the same time the van concealing the crew drives away – we are there for all to see. However, the smartly dressed men exit the car, pay no attention to us and take their seats at the table in a nearby swanky hotel.

It is the billions of bets flowing through Asia that experts say are key to these sorts of fixes

The two believe they are here for a business meeting with a global sports investor. They are expecting a down payment of thirty thousand pounds but this is, in fact, the end of a six month long Dispatches investigation and these are the men who have been offering to help fix a football match involving a team playing in the World Cup.

First contact

Christopher Forsythe is a Fifa licensed match agent and Obed Nketiah is the chief executive of the top league Ghanaian club Berekum Chelsea and a committee member of the national U20s side.

Our first contact was with Forsythe, we’d encountered him through a previous Dispatches and he didn’t waste too much time offering to help fix matches for Ghana’s national team.

The business model is pretty clear: become a third party sponsor, organise an international friendly, ensure we choose the refs then appoint one we can bung to fix the result our way. You can make a lot of money on a match through the gambling markets when you know the result.

It is the billions of bets flowing through Asia that experts say are key to these sorts of fixes. Forsythe thinks he’s talking to the representative of a group of Far East investors with a keen interest in gambling, but in reality the man is Terry Steans, a former Fifa match-fixing investigator and now an undercover reporter for Dispatches.

In one of their first meetings, Forsythe tells Steans about how a ‘bought’ referee can order a specific result for the Asian betting markets: “You can decide for them, tell the officials look, something is happening in Far East on this match so we want it 3-2 in favour of the opposition. And then they will make it happen.”

‘I am not the one’

The whole plan seems to centre around corrupting a Fifa referee, and during one of the meetings Stean tries to find out if the result will be guaranteed once the money has been handed over. Forsythe responds: “That is why we will get the officials that we have greased their palms, so that they will do it, the way we want it.”

It was the months of gathered information like this that took us to the moment in a London hotel room when we would ask Obed Nketiah and Christopher Forsythe to explain themselves.

As the crew walked in, Forsythe and Nketiah chose not to stand and leave but to sit and talk.

Forsythe declared that he was totally blameless in the situation and the “running” had been done by our undercover reporter: “I am not the one, I am not on the field, I am not the one playing so how can you tell me that I can decide the scores of the game?”

Forsythe added that he never had any plans to bribe anyone and his whole plan was fictitious.

Obed Nketiah told us that he was involved in the meetings with our covert reporter just to help organise matches and he knew nothing of any plan to bribe referees.

Our interview finished and Forsythe and Nketiah left for Heathrow but the questioning hasn’t stopped: the Ghana Football Association has asked the country’s police to look in to the conduct of the two men.

Morland Sanders goes undercover to expose football’s problem with match-fixing – Dispatches, tonight on Channel 4 at 7.30pm.