Report ties eight top referee pairs to match-fixing, mentioning links to crime. Several of them are officiating matches in these World Championships.
However, at the same time they are also suspected of fixing a total of seven European top matches, as demonstrated by a report so far kept secret, which TV 2 has in its possession.
The report was prepared in 2018 by Sportradar, an analyst firm recognized as world-leading when it comes to detecting match-fixing. Sportradar’s customers include large federations such as UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations.
Sportradar has registered a total of 26 matches between September 2016 and November 2017 – among them Champions League matches as well as national matches – which according to Sportradar show obvious signs of match-fixing.
– The Integrity Services suspect referees from those matches of interest to be influencing their outcome in order to gain illicit profits, it says in the report.
So clear-cut red flags are rare, says expert
Chris Kronow Rasmussen was previously in charge of the Danish part of the Global Lottery Monitoring System, an international provider of analysis services, monitoring and alarming national betting service providers like Danske Spil whenever there are signs of match-fixing
He therefore has in-depth knowledge of match-fixing investigations, having previously contributed to other Sportradar investigations and reports.
– Sportradar has rarely produced a report raising so many clear-cut and concrete red flags as this one, says Chris Kronow Ramussen after reading the report.
– Sportradar is saying with this report that here is something so suspicious and highly worrying within handball – concerning referees and specific games – that the obvious thing to do is for the EHF to undertake a thorough investigation and suspend the referees during that period.
A total of eight referee pairs have been involved in the 26 matches, one of them being Croatian Matija Gubica and Boris Molesevic, who may be remembered by Danish viewers from the 2021 World Championship quarter final between Denmark and Egypt, which was finally decided after extra time and penalty shootout.
The World Championship quarter final is not one of the 26 matches mentioned in the report.
Sportradar focuses on roles of referees
According to the report, Sportradar was approached by a total of seven betting companies because of “suspiciously” large amounts being staked e.g. on a draw score after the first half or on a final result with very few goals.
According to Sportradar there is a total of 26 matches where referees have been involved in influencing the result.
Among the matches involved are games between European top clubs like German THW Kiel and Flensburg-Handewitt, Polish Kielce and Hungarian clubs Veszprem og Györ. Several of them having Danish profiled players like Niklas Landin and Rasmus Lauge on the team.
TV 2 has asked six experts to analyze some of the mentioned 26 games. They point to the fact that, in a large number of those games, there are objectionable decisions, all of them promoting the exact bet made on the match.
Sportradar stresses that the report is not proof of match-fixing and therefore recommends the EHF to implement further investigations of the referees, moreover calling for the uncovering of any involvement of representatives of the concerned clubs in fixing the 26 matches – or any ties they might have to known match-fixers and organised crime groups.
Sportradar has refused to give an interview to TV 2.
Expert: The EHF is far too passive
The Croats are not the only World Championship referees mentioned in Sportradar’s report. The same is true of Macedonian top referees Gjorgij Nachevski and Slave Nikolov, who have officiated several international men’s handball finals.
However, even though the EHF was presented with Sportradar’s suspicion already in 2018, those referees have been in action in several final rounds since then. E.g. they officiated the European Championship final last year, with Mikkel Hansen and the rest of the Danish team losing to Spain.
And now they are also officiating matches at the present Championship in Sweden and Poland. Which is objectionable, says Kronow Rasmussen.
– The presence of several of the mentioned eight referee paris in the final round is, in my view, a clear example of how the European Handball Federation, the EHF, remains passive despite the very accurate information they are given in this report, he says.
Macedonians Giorgij Nachevski and Slave Nikolov officiated two of the 26 matches suspected by Sportradar of being fixed.
Gjorgij Nachevski is said by Sportradar to have links to organised crime and already known match-fixers.
– Intelligence & Investigations Services have detected that referee Giorgji Nachevski has numerous connections to serious organised crime groups, the report states.
Deny any connection to match-fixing
TV 2 met the Macedonian referee duo after their first World Cup match in Malmö on Friday evening.
Presented with Sportradar’s report, Slave Nikolov and Gjorgji Nachevski declined to comment on their names being mentioned in the report before they went into the hotel lobby.
In an interview with TV 2, the Croatian referee duo Matija Gubica and Boris Milosevic deny any connection to match-fixing.
The referees say that they have no knowledge of the report from Sportradar and that neither the EHF nor the police have contacted them about it.
Presented with information that, according to Sportradar, suspicious bets have been made on tied results in the matches from the report, Matija Gubica says:
– There are countless draws in the matches we have officiated over time. Tell me; Are we referees the only ones on the field?
You are implying that there may be teams or players involved?
– The easiest thing is to say it’s the referees’ fault. But we are not the only ones on the field, says Matija Gubica.
The EHF refers to police investigation
EHF Head of Communications and Media Thomas Schöneich writes in an e-mail that the EHF consider match-fixing a “criminal act” and that the EHF have passed on all information on the report to the relevant authorities.
-The EHF can analyse matches and the actions of the protagonists involved in those matches only from a sportive point but is obliged to forward any potential findings to the respective authorities for further investigation and can only operate based on the investigation’s results, Thomas Schöneich writes.
Despite the fact that the two referee duos deny at any time having spoken to the police about the contents of the report, EHF does not want to participate in an interview with reference to the ongoing investigation.
The report was made in 2018 and according to Chris Kronow Rasmussen the EHF should have acted on the information of the report long ago, independently of the authorities.
-They should have suspended the referees right away. There are no written rules requiring referees to officiate x number of matches a year. So, until we know the ins and outs of the matter, those referees must remain on the tribune, says Chris Kronow Rasmussen.
The EHF states in a written response that they have analyzed the matches mentioned in the report and found no reason to sanction any of the eight pairs of referees.