Brazil referees association calls for Serie A suspension after match-fixing claims
Credit: Celso Pupo / Shutterstock

Brazilian football referees have called for the suspension of the Brasileiro Serie A following statements by Botafogo owner John Textor about match fixing.

In an address to the Parliamentary Investigation Commission (CPI) of the Brazilian Senate on Monday, Textor argued that he had evidence of match-fixing in top-flight games.

“It is a very important day for me and I hope it is also a very important day for Brazilian football. It is a sport that we all love,” he told legislators, adding: “Fixing happens as much as doping. Nobody wants to believe it until we realise that this can happen anywhere.”

In response, the National Association of Soccer Referees (ANAF) has issued a statement asserting that the 2024 Serie A season must stop, going as far as to call its individual members to ‘unite and paralyse the Brazilian championship’.

As reported by SBC Notícias Brasil, the statement – signed by Salmo Valentim, President of ANAF, read: “(The) BRASILEIRÃO 2024 MUST STOP (…) I have received numerous calls from dissatisfied referees and there is already a large group that wishes, in protest of what is happening, to interrupt the Brazilian championship in the next rounds.”

The association has also been critical of Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) President Ednaldo Rodrigues, accusing him of being responsible for the problems facing the Brazilian championship.

However, Valentim has also questioned the claims Textor made before Senators, accusing the businessman of making accusations “without evidence”. This not only puts the VAR under suspicion, but can also cause serious damage to the image of refereeing, Valentim asserted.

The statement concluded: “For the good of football, BRASILEIRÃO must be stopped! And a good number of referees are willing to give this cry for freedom because they can no longer tolerate so much indifference and contempt from the president of the CBF that, out of respect for football, he should be ashamed and resign!”

Textor’s claims have had a mixed reception from the Senators he addressed as well. Some politicians hearing his comments appeared to share his concern, and the CPI has pledged to support Brazilian football.

Senator Carlos Portinho expressed concern about the ‘dependency that Brazilian football has developed on betting houses’, and Senator Veneziano Vital do Rêgo praised the ‘collaborative disposition’ Botofogo’s owner had shown.

On the other hand, some have also highlighted some contractions in his statements, particularly between a YouTube video in which he claimed there is “strong evidence” that Serie A club Palmeiras has benefited from match-fixing, and his comments in the Senate in which he asserted he had never made these allegations and would not present evidence.

Textor’s comments, and perhaps more significantly those of Portinho, have a lot of significance in the context of Brazil’s betting regulation. The country is moving ahead with the launch of a nationwide betting market, approved by the President in late December.

Regulations come complete with various integrity and sports marketing caveats, and many sports clubs are eagerly awaiting the revenue sports sponsorships pose. However, the Senators’ comments show concerns about the potential negative implications that remain.

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