680 soccer games were fixed, it seems

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680 soccer games were fixed, it seems

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.

Stevens: Celtics shootaround resembled 'typical day'

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Stevens: Celtics shootaround resembled 'typical day'

BOSTON - Hours before the biggest game of their careers, the Boston Celtics walked into the TD Garden and took part in the team's walkthrough like they have done before any old game.

This is far from any old game. The team's playoff lives are on the line after a no-show in Atlanta. The Celtics have every reason to be jacked up headed into this one - and they most likely will get to that level right around pregame introductions - but following the lead of their level-headed coach has gotten them this far, and that isn't about to change.

"When the guys walk in, they came in, we went through our shootaround. Typical day," Stevens said. "The focus is always pretty good. It was good again today. Just ready to compete and excited to play in this building."

The Celtics should be excited to play in this building. They've played exceptionally well here as of late, beating the Hawks in both of their home playoff games. The fans brought their "A" game in those two games, and it's a foregone conclusion they'll bring it for Game 6.

When asked if players really can feed off the fans, Stevens answered by saying that without question they can.

"I've said this many times, I've been so impressed ever since I've been here with the Celtics fans," Stevens said. "You can clearly feel the energy levels increasing as the months go by and as the days go by with this group. And certainly the last few months with the way our guys have played in here and the amount of energy in here. It's been incredible. It's been fun to be a part of. Hopefully we can continue."

Here’s a switch: Red Sox last in A.L. in HRs, but first in steals

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Here’s a switch: Red Sox last in A.L. in HRs, but first in steals

BOSTON - It's an admittedly small sample size, but somehow, after the first 21 games of the season, the Red Sox' offense is going against type.
     
The Sox are somehow last in the American League in homers, but first in stolen bases.
     
The Red Sox have successfully stolen 20 of 22 bases, for a 90.9 percent success rate. The 20 steals are the most through the first 21 games of a season for a Red Sox team since 1995, when they had 21.
     
By contrast, the Sox needed 51 games last season to steal their 20th base.
     
"We spend quite a bit of time studying our opposition,'' said John Farrell, "and if there are certain things that might present opportunities for us, we'll look to take advantage of those as best possible. I think it speaks to the attention to detail. The success rate of stolen bases is not just a function of speed - it's clearly our guys being aware of certain things and paying close attention and staying focused to capitalize.''
     
Farrell wouldn't detail who has the "green light'' to run on their own, but pointed out that there are triggers of sorts for players to run.
     
"Guys are trusting the information being provided and exposed to,'' he said. "They take it upon themselves at that point.''
     
In 2013, when the Sox won the World Series, they were similarly aggressive and took advantage of chances to run and take extra bases.
     
"You try to create a characteristic of your team,'' Farrell offered. "Certainly, a lot is going to be dependent on the talent of your team, depending on your roster. We can't create speed for guys [where] it just isn't there. But in combination with that, there's the mental side  of it, paying attention and playing smart baseball. I think that's  what we're saying.''
     
Farrell also recalls the downside of that same aggressiveness when, in 2014, just one year removed, the Sox ran into a lot of early outs on the bases.
     
"Stolen bases are valuable, but giving away outs is not, obviously,'' said Farrell, who recalled reining in some baserunners who weren't successful. "As long as guys are trusting [of the program] and understand what's acceptable - there are certain game situations where the runner, in his mind, has got to be 100 percent sure he's going to get that extra 90 feet.''
     
Beyond the extra bases, Farrell likes the idea of putting pressure on the defense and distracting the pitcher on the mound.''
     
Of the two caught stealing the Red Sox have had, one was Tuesday night in Atlanta when a planned hit-and-run backfired as Brock Holt swung and missed and Travis Shaw was cut down at third. That means, incredibly, that the Sox have been thrown out just once in a true steal attempt.
     
As far as homers, the Sox have hit just 17 homers, ranking them 15th in the American League. Only two other teams Texas (19) and Cleveland (18) have fewer than 20 homers.
     
"I don't know what to make of that,'' Farrell noted. "I do know this: our offense is working well as a unit [leading the league in runs scored]. We've used the whole field. We play in a ballpark that's a really good doubles ballpark (the Sox are far and away the leaders there with 59; next best in the A.L. is Houston with 46) and hopefully that's playing to our advantage.
     
"But the overall approach - the situational hitting, that's been really good. I think our guys have a pretty good vibe about themselves offensively.''
     
In the Red Sox lineup, only two hitters -- Mookie Betts (four) and David Ortiz (three) -- have more than two homers.