From Comcast SportsNetTHE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Organized crime gangs have fixed or tried to fix hundreds of soccer matches around the world in recent years, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and two Champions League games, Europol announced Monday.The European Union's police agency said an 18-month review found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. It also found evidence that a Singapore-based crime syndicate was involved in some of the match-fixing.Europol refused to name any suspected matches, players, officials or match-fixers, saying that would compromise ongoing national investigations, so it remained unclear how much of the information divulged Monday was new or had already been revealed in trials across the continent.Even so, the picture painted by Europol was the latest body blow for the credibility of sports in general, following cyclist Lance Armstrong's admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs in all seven of his Tour de France wins."This is a sad day for European football (soccer)," Europol Director Rob Wainwright told reporters. He said criminals were cashing in on soccer corruption "on a scale and in a way that threatens the very fabric of the game."Europol said 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals from at least 15 countries were involved in fixing European soccer games dating back to 2008.Ralf Mutschke, director of security at FIFA, the world soccer body, said the report highlighted the need for soccer authorities and police to tackle corruption together."The support of law enforcement bodies, legal investigations, and ultimately tougher sanctions are required, as currently there is low risk and high gain potential for the fixers," he said.Mutschke said while FIFA can ban players, referees and club officials, it is powerless to sanction people not directly involved in the sport."For people outside of football, currently the custodial sentences imposed are too weak and offer little to deter someone from getting involved in match-fixing," he said.Europol is not a police force but provides expertise and helps coordinate national police across the 27-nation European Union. It said 13 European countries were involved in this match-fixing investigation, pouring through 13,000 emails, paper trails, phone records and computer records.Its probe uncovered (euro) 8 million (10.9 million) in betting profits and (euro) 2 million (2.7 million) in bribes to players and officials and has already led to several prosecutions."This is the tip of the iceberg," said German investigator Friedhelm Althans, who also said two World Cup qualification matches in Africa and one in Central America were among those under suspicion.Wainwright said while many fixed soccer matches were already known from criminal trials in Europe, the Europol investigation lifted the lid on the widespread involvement of organized crime."(That) highlights a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe," he said.He said a Singapore-based criminal network was involved in the match-fixing, spending up to (euro) 100,000 (136,500) per match to bribe players and officials."The ringleaders are of Asian origin, working closely together with European facilitators," Europol said in a statement, but adding that "Russian-speaking" and other criminal gangs were also involved.Wainwright said the soccer world needed a "concerted effort" to tackle the corruption.UEFA, which oversees European soccer and organizes the Champions League, seemed surprised by the breadth of Europol's accusations. It said it expected to get more information on their investigation shortly."Once the details of these investigations are in UEFA's hands, then they will be reviewed by the appropriate disciplinary bodies in order that the necessary measures are taken," UEFA said in a statement.Previous investigations have found that a World Cup qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland in September 2009 was fixed by a referee from Bosnia, who UEFA banned for life.Last year, UEFA expelled a Malta player implicated in fixing a European Championship qualifier between Norway and Malta in June 2007.
Ask a football fan in New England, and he or she might tell you that Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are the top two players in the NFL. A random NFL player might not be as generous, but on balance, Brady and Gronkowski's peers consider the Patriots stars to be among the top 10 talents in the league.
The NFL Network announced the final 10 players to be included in their annual Top 100 list, a list voted on by players, and both Brady and Gronkowski made the cut.
The order of the top 10 has been determined, but has not yet been announced. Brady and Gronkowski are in the running for No. 1 alongside Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Luke Kuechly, Cam Newton, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers and JJ Watt.
The weekly series, which has counted down Nos. 100-11, will end on Wednesday, July 6 with two, one-hour episodes on NFL Network at 8 and 9 p.m. Highlights of each player will be featured, as will interviews with some of their teammates and competitors.
"He plays with a chip on his shoulder he’s always had," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said of Brady, "that really separates him."
Of Rob Gronkowski, Texans corner Charles James II said, "He's a glitch on Madden."
The only other Patriots players included in the Top 100 were Julian Edelman (who came in at No. 87) and Chandler Jones (No. 48). Jones, now a member of the Cardinals, was the only Patriots defender involved.
Corner Malcolm Butler, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower and safety Devin McCourty all had an argument to be included but were left off.
NFL.com contributors Gregg Rosenthal, Chris Wesseling, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor put together their own individual Top 100 lists to supplement the one voted on by current players. Rosenthal included Collins (No. 64), McCourty (No. 73) and Butler (No. 99) in addition to Edelman (No. 84). Wesseling included Collins (No. 43), McCourty (No. 88) and Hightower (No. 91), but not Edelman. Jones-Drew included both Edelman (No. 62) and Butler (No. 95). Taylor included only Edelman (No. 89).
The Bruins placed veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on waivers on Thursday for the purposes of buying the veteran defenseman out of the final two years of his contract.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Seidenberg, who turns 35 July 18, still had two years remaining on a deal that would have paid him $4 million in each of the seasons. The move will save the Black and Gold roughly $4.6 million in cap space over the next two years.
Seidenberg confirmed the contract buyout to CSNNE.com and confirmed one other thing: "I going to miss it."
The extra space should theoretically allow the Bruins to spend big money on Friday when free agency opens, but the Bruins really haven’t been the lead suitors for any of the major available players to this point.
With the way buyouts work, however, the spread over four years means that the Bruins will still be including $1.16 million cap hits from 2018-2020, and are now down another experienced D-man who was a stalwart warrior for them over the years. Seidenberg clearly lost a step after blowing out his knee in the 2013-14 season and was a minus player for the first time in Boston last season with one goal and 12 points in 61 games.
The skating speed was noticeably slower and Seidenberg had trouble keeping up with the pace even as he continued to block shots and throw opponents around in the defensive zone. Seidenberg finishes his seven seasons in Boston with 23 goals and 117 points in 401 games as a rugged top-four defenseman. He will always be cherished in Boston for his marvelous stretch en route to the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Claude Julien pairing Seidenberg with Zdeno Chara midway through their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens changed the tide of that playoff matchup and was the combo used by the B’s for the playoffs when they again made it to the Cup Final in 2013 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The German-born defenseman was a respected and tough veteran leader in the B’s dressing room and will be missed for his toughness and accountability whether it was good times or bad in the room.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Seidenberg was being placed on waivers for the purpose of being bought out of his contract.
Buyout waivers: Korpikoski (EDM), Carle (TB), Boll (CBJ), Seidenberg (BOS), Greene (LA), Jackman (NSH).— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 30, 2016
The Bruins were all around the action on Wednesday as the massive hockey trades dropped fast and furiously, but once again they were on the outside with their anticipatory faces pressed up against the glass as the top GMs in the game did their thing.
Instead, the B’s were left to mull an offer sheet to Jacob Trouba that isn’t very likely to drop on Friday and wait for the secondary defenseman market in free agency as it appears the Oilers might have snapped up Jason Demers already.
Some of the bold moves clearly may be mistakes: the Canadiens got older, slower and much more explosive in swapping out P.K. Subban for Shea Weber one-for-one, but also will be tougher to play against in some ways with Weber and Andrew Shaw now added to the mix. Clearly, GM Dave Poile once again was the right manager in the right place at the right time to land the super-talented Subban, who will pack the hockey house in Nashville and help continue a tradition of stud defensemen for the Predators organization.
One keen hockey source cautioned me when I said the Habs got worse on Wednesday: “I don’t think people understand how good Weber really is in the East. Montreal has become a lot harder to play against with him and Shaw.”
This certainly may be true, but the Bruins lost their cherished Habs villain with Subban moving to the Nashville Predators, where he will become a genuine U.S. hockey market superstar. Subban was charismatic and colorful, and played the role with the flops and the phantom embellishment that has become synonymous with Habs hockey over the years.
His personality and elite skill level won him a Norris Trophy a few years back and made him one of the biggest stars in the NHL and his absence now significantly reduces the wattage of the modern Bruins/Canadiens rivalry. That’s another blow to a storied rivalry that was flat as its been in years last season without Milan Lucic. It’s one that might have some rocky roads ahead with the Bruins very clearly in need of some roster help.
Peter Chiarelli became the first GM in NHL history to trade both the first and second overall picks in the same draft after shipping away Tyler Seguin in 2013 and then dealing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday for young, developing D-man Adam Larsson. Essentially he traded two top-of-the-draft lottery picks for two Swedish mid-first round talents in Loui Eriksson and Larsson. That’s going to leave many questioning his decision-making process until we see the final picture this October in Edmonton.
If things don’t go very right for the Oil this season, with Larsson developing into a prime time top-pairing D-man, the heat could turned up on Chiarelli in the never-ending rebuild in Edmonton.
Once again credit a veteran GM in Ray Shero with getting exactly what his team needed in a dynamic scoring force like Hall and doing it while giving up something that hadn’t been a significant piece over the past few seasons in New Jersey. This may just be the cost of doing business for Chiarelli if Lucic and Demers are indeed on their way to the Oilers as free agents, and if the whispers are true that Edmonton might move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for defensemen help as well.
None of this even begins to mention GM Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay, who calmly and patiently waited out the Steve Stamkos free agency sweepstakes until his star player came back to him for a massive hometown discount. Now, he has the superstar, the young and talented core group and the players from those two second-round picks the B's charitably sent along for right wing bust Brett Connolly.
The one thing that defies explanation is the Bruins-friendly voices that say inking the 22-year-old Trouba to an offer sheet “makes no sense.” Guess what really makes no sense? That would be going into next season with close to the exact same back-end group that missed the playoff cut over the past two seasons and couldn’t break the puck out of their zone under pressure if their collective lives depended on it.
The Bruins don’t have the trade assets in their organization to match offers of players like Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene, and they were beaten to the punch for top free agent D-men like Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski and perhaps even Demers. That “makes no sense” for a Bruins team that finished 19th in the league in goals allowed and had a blue line group that couldn’t execute simple tape-to-tape passes up the ice.
Signing Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract extension? Signing fringe free agent D-men like John-Michael Liles? Not getting anything done with anybody in the trade or free agency market around draft weekend and July 1? That’s what really “doesn’t make sense” to me if I’m trying to cough out the Black and Gold party line right about now.
Because the NHL management groups with the big stones, the matching respect factor and the real NHL assets are making big, bold moves all across the league right now, and the Bruins are still waiting idly for their numbers to get called at the NHL deli counter.