Match-fixing allegations hit the KBO, KBL

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Match-fixing allegations hit the KBO, KBL

The recent match-fixing scandal in Korean professional volleyball has now spread to other sports leagues with the prosecution planning to expand its investigation into the Korea Baseball Organization and Korean Basketball League following a gambling broker’s testimony.

After three players from the Korea Professional Volleyball League (V-League) - two retired and one active - and a gambling broker surnamed Kang, 29, were arrested on Feb. 8 on suspicion of rigging games, the prosecution summoned another broker for questioning who had been sentenced to four years in prison for his involvement in last year’s K-League football scandal.

The broker, surnamed Kim, said he was also involved in the V-League scandal and had heard from Kang that deals were made with a professional pitcher to give up bases on balls in the first inning of a KBO game. Kim mentioned the names of two baseball clubs and one active pitcher he says were engaged in match-fixing schemes.

Kim also reported that he heard deliberate actions were occurring in the KBL regarding 3-pointers and free throws.

Illegal gambling Web sites allow users to place “proposition bets” on various sub outcomes during a game, hoping to win money on occurrences or non-occurrences like which team will score first. Bets in these categories are easier to manipulate because gambling brokers often only need to work with one or two players.

According to the Daegu District Prosecutors’ Office, Kim said bets were made on the number of walks thrown by a starting pitcher in the first inning or the number of 3-pointers or free throws made.

Baseball is the country’s most popular professional sport and the KBO has enjoyed record attendance in the past three seasons. The KBL has recently clawed its way back to relevance after a few down years. If the broker’s allegations are proven true, the blow to these two leagues will be even more devastating than to football or volleyball.

The KBO and the KBL, which have never dealt with match-fixing allegations, reacted with surprise yesterday.

“We will check with individual clubs to see how, if any, match-fixing has taken place,” a KBO official said to Yonhap News Agency. “But unless players report themselves, it will be difficult to find out just what has gone on.”

One team official, who requested anonymity, said he has “never before heard of rumors” about possible match-fixing in baseball, but added, “Before things get out of hand, our club will conduct our own inquiry.”

Another baseball official said the KBO should take a wait-and-see approach since prosecutors are still investigating the claim and nothing has been proven.

“Whatever information we have so far is quite abstract,” the official said. “And we haven’t had any player summoned for questioning yet. So we’ll just have to watch how this will unfold.”

An official with the KBL also said he was not aware of any match-fixing from the hardwood and also said the league is holding seminars for all players to better educate them about pitfalls of match-fixing.

In light of the K-League scandal, other pro leagues have stepped up their player education. The KBO last month required managers, coaches and players to submit written pledges that they would not engage in illegal gambling or match fixing for baseball.

As pro sports leagues try to deal with fresh allegations, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism yesterday vowed to get tougher on illegal sports gambling.

No Tae-kang, the head of the ministry’s sports bureau, said the ministry will unveil a package of “comprehensive measures” next week designed to root out corruption in sports.

Last year, in response to the K-League match fixing, the ministry strengthened penalties for illegal betting on sports, but No said that alone won’t get the job done.

“The reality is that it’s difficult to eliminate match fixing with laws and regulations alone,” No said. “We will crack down on illegal betting sites and make sure players aren’t exposed to temptation from the beginning.”


By Joo Kyung-don, Yonhap [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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