Premier League: Match-fixing could never happen

July 18, 2006

Premier League chairman Dave Richards believes the match-fixing scandal that has rocked Italian football could never happen in England.

Italian champions Juventus, Lazio and Fiorentina have all been relegated to Serie B after being found guilty of attempting to influence the outcome of matches by interfering in the appointment of match officials.

AC Milan escaped the drop but they have been pulled out of the Champions League and will start next season in Serie A on minus 15 points.

But Richards is confident the safeguards are strong enough here to ensure the English game is never tainted by any such scandal.

'The corporate governance and the regulatory bodies in UK football are the best in the world,' Richards said.

'There are barriers in place for match fixing, for people throwing games. We have certain things in place to stop all that.

'I'm not saying it isn't something that happens - but in the UK we pride ourselves on being on top of that.

'Football in the UK, especially with the Foundation between the Premier League and the FA, evolves things in the proper manner, with proper corporate governance and proper referees and the proper way to do things.'

Richards added that the Italian scandal is a 'lesson to us all' but he believes it would be 'impossible' to bribe a Premiership referee.

The fall-out from the Italian scandal means a number of top class players could be available to English clubs on the cheap - and Richards hopes many of them do end up in the Premiership.

Richards is also chairman of the Football Foundation and he feels the work being done at grass roots level helps the English game steer clear of the corruptive influences that have infected other leagues.

Richards was speaking at the opening of the UK's first Nike Grind football pitch, which has been developed in conjunction with the Football Foundation and Lambeth Council in south London.

He said: 'This gives kids a better chance in life. Kids, especially when they get to 10 or 12, look at the bad things that happened in Italy and think it is okay.

'But we like to think we can give them better chances in life and say 'no it's wrong to do that'.

'The Foundation has been going five years and we have put £600million back into the game.

'It's about pitches, changing rooms, education and welfare.

'It is about giving kids the chance of somewhere to go rather than breaking into property or taking drugs.

'And you never know. The next World Cup star could come from here.'