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Wishart says Mr Big-style fixing yet to hit Scotland but warns against complacency

Fraser Wishart has heard all of the horror stories.

He does not believe that match fixing or spot fixing is an urgent problem for Scottish football to address, but through union colleagues across Europe, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association Scotland understands the damage that can be caused to the game, and to individuals, when unscrupulous figures become involved in illicitly influencing games.

He can reach for several examples. One involved players in Croatia who were not paid by the club for 10 months and when they asked the owner for their money, they were intimidated into carrying out spot fixing - deliberately being booked or sent off during a game, for instance - in return for being paid the wages they were due. Another concerned a striker who joined a new club and was told not to score unless the president put his hat on in the stand.

"You name it, it has happened," Wishart said. "[For the players in Croatia], they were going to be relegated anyway, so it was a case of not trying quite as hard and they lost games. It was the only way to feed their children. They ended up in jail. One of the guys came to our conference in St Andrews and was in floods of tears telling his story. He was mortified because he was arrested in front of his children. I felt for the guy. The intimidation in some places is horrendous, with players at the end of a chain of threats. [The striker] was told that if he scored when the president was hatless, there would be a knock at the door."

PFA Scotland arranged a conference, along with FIFPro, the world players' union, to discuss match fixing last year in St Andrews. The announcement yesterday of an initiative to address the subject is one of the consequences of that conference. While Wishart would advocate the full sanctions being imposed on any player who decides out of greed or self-motivation to match fix, he advocates a case-by-case assessment since more often than not players are left feeling they have no choice but to agree to the demands being made on them,

"A player doesn't wake up one morning and decided to fix a game," he said. "There's a chain that almost always involves a Mr Big. Players in Eastern Europe and South America have had a knock at their doors and been told to do x, or y will happen to their families. If it's purely greed then hell mend you, but if it's a financial or physical threat, then we must protect the player. FIFpro got involved and they're very aware of what happens in other countries. It would scare you. The goal is to keep the integrity of the game sacrosanct."

Wishart believes the game in Scotland is essentially clean. Often, players are drawn into situations because of gambling debts or because they are not receiving their wages. None the less, that does not mean Scottish football cannot afford the potential for problems to arise if help is not available to players, as well as education initiatives and awareness of the consequence of being involved in match fixing, which is often a custodial sentence.

"Events on this scale have not happened yet in Scotland, but we can't be complacent and must keep it away from our borders," he said. "It's always been seen as something that happens elsewhere, in Asia or Eastern Europe. There have been cases in Norway and Finland where people have ended up in jail due to match fixing. There are allegations in a case down in England that may go further. We have to take steps."

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