The Dirty Game: How Associated Press series exposed global corruption in football

Associated Press last month released the Dirty Game Series, a string of in-depth multimedia packages on match-fixing in football.

The idea came about after it was revealed that Europol, the European Union police body, had found nearly 700 “suspicious” matches around the world since 2008.

Here, AP Europe editor Niko Price explains how the series was completed.

Why did AP decide to do this series?

We like many others had been covering specific developments in match-fixing in different parts of the globe but we said there is something more than the pieces here and putting it all together would make for a pretty compelling read.

In doing so I think we were able to describe the issue to people who really hadn’t engaged in it previously.

How long did it take to complete the project?

From conception to publication about six or seven months maybe – different pieces of it took more or less time.

We didn’t dedicate a team to it full time. This is something people were working on alongside their other duties. It was a good deal of effort from a bunch of people on separate continents.

The problem of match fixing is one that no region is immune from right now and reporting it out requires a global reach that we were able to bring to this.

This is the kind of thing that an organisation like ours can do well. Because we really do have resources in a lot of places and if there’s a detail in a story in Zimbabwe we have someone there who can chase it down and report it out.

We can really harness the resources we have across the globe to describe a global a problem.

Who worked on the project – just sports reporters, or others as well?

Some of the people involved were sports journalists and had good sources in the football world and were able to use those contacts and that expertise that they had – while others were more general news journalists and were able to bring a background of reporting on court cases and reporting on crime – because this is crime.

So it’s both a sports story and a general news story. And we brought people who were able to look at it from both perspectives.

Will this sort of coverage hinder sports journalists’ abilities to report on their area in the future?

Possibly in certain isolated places. We were contacted by at least one football club that was displeased with the coverage but I don’t think that we will lose access over it and this is an important story.

I think FIFA would agree that this is a major danger to the sport and as such I think it’s important to the sport that it be reported on .

If you look at what has happened to cycling with the doping allegations, these are things that people possibly didn’t want to come out at the time but they have truly destroyed the sport.

I think there’s a great interest in the football world for this problem to be solved before it destroys the sport.

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