A Convenient Culprit
Is Steve Goddard really the only man to blame for South Africa’s match-fixing scandal?
Was the 2010 World Cup an alien visitation? From the point of view of wintertime Johannesburg five years later, it certainly seems so. Yes, we built some stadiums, roads were widened and airports extended. There were tangible, physical rewards. Our tourism profile was raised, our football side was exposed to the best in the world. As a nation we looked with some vague and ill-defined expectation towards an improved future.
Many of the promises of 2010, it is safe to say, have been unfulfilled. The standard of our league football is probably no better or worse. An entrenched elite, with no sign of moving on any time soon, are still in charge of the two wings of South African football. More importantly, some of the gloss has been taken off the tournament because of a slow-burning match-fixing saga, dating back to the six weeks immediately before the showpiece, during which Bafana Bafana, the national team, played four friendlies against a variety of nondescript opposition.
Shortly before the 2010 tournament began, Wilson Raj Perumal’s organisation, Football 4U, infiltrated the local FA and conspired to appoint and therefore influence the referees for the friendlies, which were bet upon with illegal South-East Asian bookmakers. A new Fifa report into the malfeasance (more of this in a minute), estimates that one of the matches in question saw Perumal make €600,000 in an afternoon, a highly lucrative couple of hours of work. The latest report uses evidence given by Perumal, a convicted Singapore fraudster and conman now based in Hungary, to implicate Steve Goddard, currently a part-time employee of the South African Football Association (Safa)’s referees department. He gave the evidence to Hungarian police, from whence it was forwarded to Fifa. The report recommends that Goddard, the only remaining member of Safa from the debacle of 2010, be suspended for two and a half years.
This was not the conclusion reached by an earlier Fifa report, authored by the independent match-fixing consultant Terry Steans and the then-head of Fifa security, Chris Eaton, who has since shuffled off to a sinecure in Doha. Both of them pinned the blame for Football 4U’s infiltration on the dysfunctional workings of a deeply stressed organisation and hinted at the likely connivance of Lindile ‘Ace’ Kika, a colleague of Goddard’s in the Safa referees department, and the probable neglect, possible wrongdoing, of the then-chief executive officer, Leslie Sedibe. Steans has admitted privately that he also had doubts about the current Safa chief executive, Dennis Mumble. It was Mumble who first approached Fifa in 2011 with his suspicions, his reasoning being that he wanted to start his tenure as chief executive by “sweeping clean” after the World Cup. Steans doubts that his intentions were completely pure, although he admits that his and Eaton’s investigations were hamstrung by their inability to subpoena witnesses or get their hands on incriminating financial material.
Kika, for example, conducted most of his association business on his private Gmail account and the first wave of Fifa-appointed investigators could never get access to his hard drive. Sedibe miraculously “lost” his laptop and, although he was interviewed, he
was vague and unhelpful. Swathes of potentially incriminating material couldn’t be accessed or simply disappeared. Steans would have liked South African police involvement in accessing bank statements, flight manifests and hotel guest lists. This never happened. He and Eaton submitted their report in late 2012 and it appears to have been almost completely disregarded, presumably because it was politically expedient to do so. In it, Goddard features no more or less prominently than any other high-profile members of the organisation. Shortly after the report was submitted, Eaton and Steans cut their ties with Fifa completely. Although it was debated by the Safa executive in December 2012, no one has been fingered as being ultimately responsible. There have certainly never been any criminal convictions.
Goddard, it should be said, is not an impressive witness. The latest report seems to take perverse pleasure, for example, in quoting his tics and hesitations verbatim. The following is an account of Goddard’s response to a death threat by Perumal as a result of changing referees in the tunnel shortly before a pre-World Cup friendly between South Africa and Denmark. As a sop to Perumal, and possibly fearing that Perumal might make good on his word, Goddard and Kika decide to allow Ibrahim Chaibou, originally scheduled to be the referee for the Bafana versus Denmark match, to referee the following day’s friendly between Nigeria and North Korea instead: “When he [Kika] came back to me, he, he said, err ,‘The best thing that I can suggest, subject to our agreement, is, err, so that we don’t have a major incident, is to, err, get the, um, get this, err, guy from Niger [Chaibou] to referee the game the following day between, err, Nigeria and, err, North Korea.’”
There is much of this kind of thing in the report, which relentlessly narrows the focus of its enquiries so that Goddard is isolated from his departmental colleagues and the association at large, and so becomes the sole object of Fifa’s forensic scrutiny. Goddard compounds his case by being vague and technologically challenged, unable to respond to some of Fifa’s questions by email. We learn that he hasn’t received correspondence from Fifa because his computer crashed; he suffered a break-in. Indeed, he does not appear to fall over himself to cooperate with José Rodríguez and his colleagues in the Adjudicatory Chamber, a decision which many may regard as highly commendable. Fifa, having embarked on a witch-hunt which runs to all of 47 pages, see it slightly differently.
Goddard, from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, visited South Africa for the first time in May 1982. He stayed for five months, selling gearboxes to Eskom, the South African power utility. He refereed his last match in the West Riding amateur league in October 1983 and settled permanently in Johannesburg the following January. He was part of a group of mainly expatriate Englishmen such as Colin Knott, Stuart Gregory and Roger Stonehouse, who settled in South Africa at much the same time. All four were referees of good standard and they did much to keep the spirit of neutral officiating in local football alive. Goddard paid his local dues in his first couple of winters by officiating in the local Transvaal amateur leagues and by 1986 he was refereeing regularly in the National Professional Soccer League ((NPSL)).
The spike in Goddard’s professional prospects coincided, however, with prime minister PW Botha’s declaration of a national state of emergency. So widespread was the popular opposition to apartheid, particularly in the townships but also at the liberal universities and through the trade unions, that Botha sent in troops to quell the rioting. These are the images you can see in Whitey Ford’s video for “Stone in my Hand”, cops beating protesting schoolchildren half their age or firing bullets and water cannons at them out of armoured cars. Throughout the mayhem and South Africa’s slow disintegration into a pariah state, football continued. Goddard went into the townships under escort. Sometimes his minders were armed. “I remember driving between a wall and a burning Putco bus which resulted in burn marks to the car,” Goddard told me. “I had two members of NPSL security with me and we were on our way to a game in Dobsonville [in Soweto]. Luckily nobody was hurt but the car was badly damaged.”
In a professional career of eight years, featuring several cup finals, including the BP and the Mainstay, the two premier knockout competitions of the period, Goddard was never offered a bribe. When asked why this was, he replied in his inimitably back-to-front way, “This was because I had a reputation for being not approachable.” Other than the marquee games, the cup finals and the high-profile league encounters, Goddard’s sphere of influence included the East Rand townships of Vosloorus, Duduza and Katlehong, notoriously dangerous places in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the country simmered, stumbling half-heartedly and bloodily towards democracy. He wasn’t there every week but he was present often enough to know it wasn’t always safe. He was also there regularly enough for him to become aware that township football was blithely and ubiquitously crooked. Despite the best endeavours of the association to be watchful about referees’ appointments and pay officials on time, temptation often became too much. Referees were corrupted and games thrown or traded as a matter of course – particularly in the lower leagues and often towards the end of the season when issues of promotion and relegation became acute. “African Wanderers fixed a game between Durban City and Moroka Swallows in 1987-88 and I was pulled off of it,” Goddard said. “I never really found out why.”
Rodríguez, the deputy secretary of Fifa’s Adjudicatory Chamber whose signature appears at the front of the report implicating Goddard, makes a great deal of the various commissions and initiatives which have coursed through South African football over the years. There was the Pickard Commission of Enquiry in the early 1990s, for example, and a later report by the judge Graham Mashoana. There has been a great deal of hand-wringing and learned disputations, yet little action or reward and certainly precious few convictions. The one salient feature of all this is that despite the efforts to clean up the game, it remains dirty.
In the early part of the report, Rodríguez builds his case to suggest that Goddard, aware of the commissions and the sitting of learned men, should be cognisant of possible match-fixing. He should have done more about it, argues the report. The converse is, in fact, more plausible: that Goddard, having been exposed to so much over the years, was de-sensitised to match manipulation. He was working in a bankrupt and faction-ridden organisation, in which there was a war going on between the Sedibe faction and the Mumble faction. Reporting lines were unclear and day-to-day administration unfolded in an atmosphere of suspicion and chaos. The Steans and Eaton report, for example, makes mention of the fact that Goddard took some of his suspicions about referees for the friendlies to Kika and another colleague, Adeel Carelse, before the second match against Bulgaria. He expected these suspicions to be taken up the chain of command. Realising that they hadn’t been, he went to the association’s president, Kirsten Nematandani. “Mr Goddard had expected this to alert the Safa hierarchy but all he received was reprimand for going directly to the Safa president,” wrote Eaton and Steans.
The first report was evidently incomplete, a description Steans and Eaton wouldn’t dispute. Despite that, it contains much that is valuable. For example, they identify Perumal’s factotum, a certain ‘Mohammed’ as Jason Jo Lourdes, another convicted fixer. It was Lourdes who infiltrated Safa and set up the initial contacts. Why not interview him? Or fly out from Switzerland as Steans and Eaton did, rather than finding Goddard guilty via remote control? Presumably Rodríguez and his people can’t be bothered to interview him (or the many others they might have approached, including Mumble, Sedibe and even the increasingly slippery Danny Jordaan) because Goddard makes a convenient scapegoat.
Here is a man who has given nearly 30 years of his professional life to Safa in one capacity or another. He might have failed in his fiduciary duties to his organisation and Fifa. But unlike others, he never accepted bribes and, unlike others, he received a death threat. He now works for Safa on a part-time basis. He hasn’t received a salary since March. Goddard might not be the world’s most accomplished witness but there is enough overlap between the two Fifa reports to suggest he was part of a collective, institutional failure to act against the fixers. He is not a man alone. Not that you would know it from the latest Fifa stitch-up.