“I think the general consensus around the room was this isn’t a big issue.” So ruled Football Association General Secretary Alex Horne in another example of the British game’s worrying apathy to the threat of spot-fixing.

Speaking following a meeting at Whitehall on tackling fixing, Horne did admit football authorities in England cannot afford to be complacent and that they must learn from cricket and horseracing.

However, that was interspersed with emphasising that fixing is not a wide-spread issue within Britain. It is traditionally, of course, more associated with Italy, Turkey and the Far East.

This has come about after the Sun on Sunday's investigation during which an ex-League One footballer claimed players can be paid for deliberately getting booked.

The mere fact it took a newspaper to expose alleged skullduggery in the game should be cause enough for the football authorities in England to question their own safeguards and intelligence.

Horne’s rhetoric that it’s not a “big issue” or “wide-spread” are abstract concepts which seek only to downplay the potential severity of the alleged crimes and the considerable impact they could have on the game.

How big is big, how many stories and/or arrests must there be before something is official classified ‘wide-spread’?

Are we seriously believing that what the Sun on Sunday have reported is an isolated incident and has never happened before, nor will ever happen again?

It’s certainly not isolated as there have been claims in the past: allegations levelled against Bruce Grobbelaar and John Fashunu, both Premier League players at the time later found not guilty.

Matt Le Tissier admitted in 2009 he tried, and failed, to kick the ball out of play during a top flight game in 1995 to pocket £10,000 (Dh60,000). The reaction (players, fans, the media) was largely a shrug of the shoulders.

It was an isolated incident of course. Former Southampton captain Claus Lundekvam said in 2012 that fellow Premier League players regularly made money by betting on and influencing in-game events such as first throw-in or corner.

Team-mates, including Le Tissier, denied it, one even claimed Lundekvam’s battles with substance abuse contributed to his apparent fanciful tale and actions. The authorities swallowed it and the problem went away.

Football is the most watched sport in the world. Global television deals ensure every top league is meticulously watched and, for many, gambled on.

This year alone there have been fixing incidents in Australia (involving English players), Austria, China, Italy, Spain and now England.

UEFA president Michel Platini even wants a European sports police force to help outlaw it, such is the rising threat.

La Liga president Javier Tebas was honest enough to admit he thinks eight to 10 games a season in Spain’s top flight are fixed in some capacity.

UEFA are worried, Spain is concerned, Italy have been waging a battle against it for decades. Yet in England, “it’s not a big issue”. Let’s just hope Horne’s right.

 

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