This article was originaly published in the Ryerson Review of Journalism: Fixated
We begin in Germany during the 2006 World Cup of soccer. There are thousands of fans inside the main stadium at Dortmund, watching Brazil take on Ghana for a berth in the quarterfinals. The majority support Brazil.
They won’t be disappointed; within six minutes the South Americans are up 1–0. The stadium erupts as fans dressed in yellow, some wearing bikinis, start waving their green, yellow and blue flags.
When the final whistle blows, the score is 3–0 for Brazil. The Ghanaian fans leave quietly as the Brazilians samba onto the streets. While the stadium empties, a solitary man remains. His name is Declan Hill, he’s a Canadian investigative journalist, and he’s standing 50 feet back from the touchline. If you saw him, you would remember him not for his dark brown hair or the intensity of his green-tinted brown eyes, but for his tears.
This isn’t just another investigation—it’s a crusade to protect the world’s most popular sport from becoming an empty spectacle.
As Hill wipes them away, he wonders what passersby must think. He wants to explain, but at this moment there is no one who can understand. Despite sharing the match with 65,000 fans inside the stadium, and millions more watching it on TV, Hill stands alone, consumed by the belief that the game was fixed.
It’s a life-changing moment. Hill first learned of the possibility of a rigged match while following a group of gangsters in Thailand. At first, he wasn’t sure what to make of them. It seemed improbable that four men, sitting at a KFC in northern Bangkok, could buy a World Cup match. Even though one of them told Hill the score in advance, he wanted to witness the game for himself. He needed to see the “string of stupid mistakes” (deliberately missed shots and poorly played off-sides) to know that the fix was real, he says.
Suddenly, the game he loves no longer feels pure. Sport is meant to be something more, a place “where bullshit cannot reach,” says Hill. However, if the final score is the product of a mafia-controlled script, then the game loses its integrity. This possibility drives Hill to action. He decides to take a stand because, for him, this isn’t just another investigation—it’s a crusade to protect the world’s most popular sport from becoming an empty spectacle.
This is the story of an obsession. It’s about a hard-driving journalist who uncovers an inconvenient truth and refuses to look the other way. In doing so, he raises some troubling journalistic questions that nearly destroy his reputation. He’s willing to go to extremes because, as Hill himself puts it, his eyes beaming through his glasses: “This is the Watergate of sports stories.”
THE TRAIL BEGINS IN MOSCOW. It’s 1999 and Hill is in a Georgian restaurant, sitting across from a high-ranking Russian mobster. At the time, Hill is an associate producer at CBC’s the fifth estate, investigating connections between organized crime and Russian hockey players in the NHL. “I guess you like hockey,” remarks Hill, attempting to break the ice.
“I kind of like hockey, but I really love football,” replies the mobster, before recounting his experience at the 1994 World Cup, where he sat in the VIP box alongside various high-level executives from FIFA, soccer’s governing body.
Hill can’t believe what he’s hearing. “It’s like being in the Vatican sharing the balcony with the Pope on Easter Sunday,” he explains. “It doesn’t get, symbolically, more important than this. What is this man doing at the epicentre of world sport power?”
This question sparks Hill’s interest in the relationship between organized crime and soccer. However, while Moscow is the catalyst, it’s not the beginning of Hill’s own story. To understand him, we need to know what compels a man to confront a multi-billion-dollar gambling industry, powerful sports federations and even his fellow journalists.
WHILE THERE IS NO SINGLE ANSWER, it’s best to start in 1988 with Hill, in his 20s, about to embark on a trip to India. He was born in Ottawa, but his family has ties to India dating back to the 1850s, and this trip is partly an attempt to reconnect with these roots. It proves to be a life-altering experience.
Hill tells me this in an Italian café near Ottawa’s Preston Street. It’s an intimate place, with two TVs constantly tuned to sports. There is a foosball table at the back, and the walls are lined with handwritten charts that record the latest soccer standings. Hill’s shoulder brushes against them as he sips his Americano. He’s dressed in a blue shirt and black pants, and he sits with his legs crossed. His defining feature, however, is his scarf. Today it’s grey, worn loosely knotted around his neck. “It’s like European fashion now,” he explains.
India “challenges you intellectually, emotionally and spiritually,” says Hill. “You hate and love the place all in one day, 10 times a day.” While in Calcutta, he volunteers in a street clinic, Calcutta Rescue. He sees nurses treating patients with leprosy, only to run into them a few hours later, begging on the streets. When asked why they’ve removed their bandages, the patients would say, “How do you expect us to make money?”
The living conditions that Hill encountered were unforgettable, and no matter how bad things get, no matter where he goes—Kosovo, Iraq, Mexico, Bolivia—nothing is ever as bad as Calcutta. Despite the challenges, what Hill takes away from the experience is the excitement of being around people who are trying to make a difference.
Inspired, Hill returns home and becomes a co-founder of Doctors Without Borders in Canada. In 1990 he enrolls in the University of Toronto and begins studying history and political science. Halfway through his undergrad degree, Hill is presented with an opportunity to return to India. He’s taking a course on environmental degradation, and his professor is interested in doing some first-hand research in Assam, a northeastern Indian state where civil war still rages today in certain areas.
"It’s a tough, tough life, and it’s one that I couldn’t take. It’s one that I had to leave for my own sanity."
Hill’s previous experience in India makes him a natural choice. Full of ambition, he pitches a story about his trip to CBC Radio and convinces the producers at Ideas to take a chance on him. They provide a tape recorder and challenge Hill to come back with enough material to make a documentary.
Back in India, he presents himself as a tour guide to the authorities. Through “sheer bravado, good luck and chutzpah,” he manages to gain access into Assam and begins working on his first journalistic endeavour. Trying not to draw attention, he pretends that his tape recorder is a Walkman.
When Hill returns to Canada, he has enough material to make a two-part documentary. While he’s now on his way to becoming a journalist, he’s torn because his first love is acting and, as it happens, India has given him some valuable experience.
During his first trip, Hill worked on an Indian TV show, Bharat Ek Khoj (The Discovery of India), having picked up enough Hindi to play small roles. As luck would have it, the show gave him the chance to work with some big Bollywood names: Om Puri, Jalal Agha and Tom Alter.
Hill was able to land these roles because he’s a professionally trained actor. After nationwide auditions, he was accepted to the National Theatre School in Montreal with a full scholarship. He graduated in 1988. His acting resumé also includes an apprenticeship at the Shaw Festival and appearances on Top Cops and Counterstrike, ’90s TV shows. He has also done commercials for Ruffles Potato Chips, I.D.A. Drugs and Pizza Hut, and another with Don Cherry.
While Hill is passionate about acting, he’s reluctant to discuss it. He worries that people, particularly Canadians, consider actors to be “luvvies” or “flakes.” What they don’t realize, says Hill, taking another sip of his Americano, is that “it’s a tough, tough life, and it’s one that I couldn’t take. It’s one that I had to leave for my own sanity.”
The breaking point comes after losing the role of Gilbert Blythe on the TV series Road to Avonlea. After several auditions, it’s down to him and Jonathan Crombie, and Crombie gets the role. That’s what acting is like—it’s a series of breaks, and sometimes they don’t go your way.
“This isn’t normal academics. Normal academics fight to be away from exciting subjects; these guys have studied real life,”
The competitive world of acting teaches Hill professionalism and self-belief. Both qualities ease his transition into journalism, as does the discovery that journalism, in addition to being intellectually stimulating, can also be creative. It’s a testament to Hill’s abilities that he completes his undergrad while continuing to work for CBC. By 1993 he is already at the fifth estate, working as a researcher. In 1996 he becomes an associate producer.
At the fifth, Hill is exposed to some of Canada’s top investigative reporters. It’s the place to be when you’re a young man, eager to learn. According to Claude Vickery, one of the show’s producers, “it’s an extremely competitive environment” with no shortage of applicants. He remembers Hill as a “very special researcher with outstanding journalistic skills.”
David Studer, a former executive producer at the fifth, also remembers Hill as a “smart guy, quick on the uptake with lots of energy.” He describes Hill as “an all arounder,” good at photography, radio and television. Studer isn’t surprised by Hill’s success. “This is a guy who wanted to do a lot of different things in his life.”
Although more than 12 years have passed since Hill left the fifth, his work—particularlyMafia Power Play, a joint CBC/PBS Frontline production and the reason why Hill was in Moscow—is well remembered, as is his involvement in the team that won a Michener Award in 2000 for a series of reports on the police and the justice system.
The intensity of the fifth speaks to Hill’s personality. He likes working at an elite level, and at the fifth he’s in on some of the biggest stories in Canada, like the Airbus Affair. Karlheinz Schreiber, a German businessman, allegedly attempted to bribe Brian Mulroney, a charge the former prime minister denies. In his book The Truth Shows Up, Harvey Cashore describes Hill’s brief role in a key stakeout of Schreiber’s Toronto hotel in 1999.
Suddenly, sitting in the Ottawa café, Hill raises his arms, simulating the near-arrest of one of his colleagues during that stakeout. Apparently the owners of a nearby jewellery store grew suspicious of their presence and called the cops. “I just finished wrapping this thing up when I get a phone call saying that Schreiber has left the building,” says Hill, bobbing his head in order to re-enact his sprint down the Yorkville lanes in search of a taxi. He then jumps in his seat as if throwing himself into the back of the vehicle. He stares straight across the table, points his finger and repeats the immortal words he said on that day: “Cabby, follow that car!”
These are the origins of an investigative journalist, but Hill wants to be more than just another face in the crowd—he wants to be the best. In order to achieve this, he needed to continue growing and this meant seeking opportunities outside of the fifth.
HIS PATH LEADS HIM TO OXFORD, where, in 2003, he begins studying for his PhD. He lives on a 49-foot canal boat. It’s a romantic notion that lasts three months. “I woke up one morning and there was literally a layer of frost on my blankets, so I was like, ‘sod this,’” says Hill, who soon after finds a place on land.
He’s studying sociology at the School of Informal Governance, which is a fancy way of saying “organized crime and corruption.” This school is part of what’s now known as Green Templeton College. In the middle of the campus is an 18th-century observatory and a stable that is now a pub. However, what makes the place unique is not the architecture but the academic environment.
“This isn’t normal academics. Normal academics fight to be away from exciting subjects; these guys have studied real life,” says Hill. One colleague, for example, is not only an expert on the yakuza (the Japanese mob) but also a black belt in karate who spars in the morning before lectures. Hill’s supervisor, Diego Gambetta, is a leading expert on the Sicilian mob. Others are studying the IRA, and one professor, an expert on the Russian mafia, is used as a source by John le Carré.
“If I were still a journalist with the CBC, I wouldn’t be able to do the best stories in the world. I wouldn’t have been able to deliver the Watergate of sports stories.”
Ever since his meeting in Moscow, Hill has been fascinated by organized crime’s relationship to sports, so for his thesis he proposes studying match-fixing in soccer. He does this partially because he’s a lifelong fan of the game (his colleagues at thefifth still remember the soccer scarves that hung in his office), but also because of the notion of “universal deviance.” Since the sport is played around the world and it’s illegal to fix a match no matter what culture you’re from, soccer can be used to analyze corruption at an international level.
It’s not easy to find the right subject, says Bruce Livesey, an author and investigative journalist who worked with Hill at the fifth. They’ve remained friends and, according to Livesey, Hill went to Oxford with the goal of writing a bestselling book. The secret is finding a “sexy subject,” says Livesey. “A lot of investigative books…have vanished into obscurity because they’re on obscure subjects that nobody gives a shit about.”
During the course of his research, Hill is shocked to discover the extent to which match-fixing is corrupting professional soccer. “I kind of fell into this massive story,” he says. He also hits upon it at the right time. While match-fixing itself is not new or unique to soccer, several incidents occurred just before or during his studies.
In 2000, there was the Hansie Cronje affair in cricket. A few years later, match-fixing allegations arose in sumo wrestling and tennis. In 2005, the Bundesliga scandal, involving German soccer referee Robert Hoyzer, made headlines. One year later, there was the Calciopoli scandal, in which officials working for five of Italy’s top soccer clubs were found guilty of match-fixing. One team in particular—Juventus, Italy’s most popular team—was stripped of two Series A titles and demoted to a lower division.
Hill was now working on a major story, the kind that he says he couldn’t have done at CBC. “[There is an] institutional mentality where they just won’t do the world’s biggest stories…CBC is not built that way.” It’s not the journalists, he explains, but the culture of the organization. “If I were still a journalist with the CBC, I wouldn’t be able to do the best stories in the world. I wouldn’t have been able to deliver the Watergate of sports stories.”
You have to have an ego to do this kind of work. If you decide that the world is wrong and that you’re right, you’re going to need a lot of self-confidence. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Hill can be difficult to work with. At least that’s what David Nayman, former executive producer of CBC’s Newsworld International and current Ryerson instructor, heard before offering him a position as a late-night anchor. The word on Hill was that he could be a “very in-your-face, intense guy.” The problem, says Nayman, is that he’s “dogged,” and as a result, “he does what any other good journalist does, which is fight for your material.”
“I’m a very strong Quaker, or at least I have a very strong belief in God.”
While Livesey agrees that Hill can carry a chip on his shoulder, he suspects that there are other factors involved at the fifth. “You know you’re a better journalist than the people you’re working for, and it’s frustrating that they’re getting paid more, they’re getting more control…in the case of the host, they get all the glory and you’re going, ‘fuck, what am I doing this for?’” Above all, Livesey emphasizes that any problems were simply due to the nature of working in an intense, stressful environment.
After leaving the fifth, Hill stayed at Newsworld International for approximately two years and also did freelance projects while working there before continuing on to Oxford. In fact, he won an award from the Canadian Association of Journalists in 2006 for his radio documentary Speaking the Truth, about Filipino journalist Marlene Esperat, who was killed in her home.
Despite this achievement, Hill was surprised to find that “90 percent of journalism” was nothing more than “secretarial work.” He describes it as “making comments on other people’s commentary.” It was only after leaving the fifth that he realized that much of Canadian media didn’t share the same drive. “They don’t have that ‘we will stop at nothing, we have the public interest.’ So I loved working at the fifth. I would get up in the morning because I believed that it was a really important job.”
At Oxford, Hill rediscovers the excellence he seeks. However, the source of his motivation lies deeper. The key to understanding it, says Hill, is that “I’m a very strong Quaker, or at least I have a very strong belief in God.”
Quakers seek to create heaven on Earth. As Hill explains, “part of the oxygen of being a Quaker is the belief in social justice.” They function without a formal clergy and perform communal worship in silence, speaking only when moved by the spirit.
Quakers believe that there is a piece of God in everyone; for this reason they’ve fought against slavery and helped champion women’s rights as well as prison reform. With so many role models, it’s easy to understand why Hill feels like he’s expressing his spiritual beliefs when he’s fighting corruption.
For his PhD thesis, Hill conducts primary research by following a group of match-fixers across Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Physically going to these meetings is tough. He is, after all, dealing with criminals, who at any moment could say, “Hey, what are you doing? You’re taping this meeting, you’re dead.”
One of the things that surprises Hill about these meetings is the degree to which globalization has transformed the gambling industry. “It’s as if somebody’s taken corruption and injected a drug to make it go WOW,” says Hill, animating the story with his hands. “That is the same thing that is affecting the music industry and travel.” Now, with a click of a button, people can bet on almost any game, in any league around the world, “just like anyone can buy an airplane ticket.”
The danger is that match-fixing strikes at the core element of sport: its unpredictability. In doing so, it threatens sports as a business, an educational tool and a contributor to society. If people stop believing and become cynical of the results, then sports become like professional wrestling—little more than spectacle.
Upon completing his PhD, Hill publishes The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime in 2008. In this 400-page book, he alleges that fixers are not only operating around the world, but also attempting to influence the game at the highest level—the World Cup.
HILL STANDS BEFORE ME, dressed in black, in a boxing club beneath a church near Ottawa’s Chinatown. He’s an avid boxer, and today he’s teaching me a Cuban warm-up exercise, where the objective is to tap your opponent’s shoulders. It’s a way of simulating the conditions of a fight without risking injury.
When we first entered the club, Hill, wearing a navy scarf with red and white marks, was upbeat and happy to see his fellow members. He knows most of them by name and has a story to share with nearly everyone. But now that we’re facing each other with our hands up, the intensity in Hill’s eyes is scary. When he attacks, the only tell is a slight expansion of his irises. It’s not enough to help me. One, two, three, four, five—he’s scoring points at will.
The bell, or in this case an electronic beep, saves me. Boxers practise under the same conditions as an actual fight: three-minute intervals of intense activity are broken up by a minute’s rest. The rhythm of the club changes during these breaks. Gone are the sounds of screeching shoes and thudding barbells, and the clanking of chains that accompanies the one-two combinations against the punching bags. In their place is an eruption of conversation as members greet one another, stretch and catch their breath in preparation for the next round.
In the ring, Hill’s biggest advantage is his reach. He’s six feet two inches tall, and it’s hard for me to get near. It’s the same problem that Jeff Davis, general manager at an Ottawa pub, had when he fought Hill in March 2012. Their charity boxing match was on the undercard of the Justin Trudeau/Patrick Brazeau fight that helped raise over $230,000 for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.
Although Quakers are pacifists, Hill took on the fight after Davis’s original opponent dropped out with less than a month to go. Hill agreed to participate because he, too, has lost loved ones to cancer.
“People who live off of soccer—that includes me—most of us don’t want to destroy the industry, and you risk doing that if you lift the lid off of the garbage can, and that’s what he’s doing.”
When Hill fights, he has a wry smile. Davis may have wanted to wipe it off, but Hill’s reach proved difficult to circumvent; however, any animosity stayed in the ring, and both men later went out for drinks. “He’s just a fantastic gentleman,” says Davis, who ended up losing the fight. “Not one bad word could I say.”
When The Fix came out, not all of the reviewers were as kind as Davis. Hill still remembers a certain TV host who kept giving him “the gears,” but during a commercial break said, “You’re absolutely right. I talk to players all the time, and this is what they tell me is going on.”
Some charge that Hill failed to prove his case. As John Doyle, television critic for The Globe and Mail and a well-known soccer writer, points out, a set of accurate predictions does not prove that a game is fixed. Hill takes this criticism personally. “There are approximately 76 pages of notes… If anything, I was being very modest about what I could show at the time.”
Doyle also worries that Hill is “feeding into and helping to play up suspicions about soccer,” which he says carry “dark undertones.” Doyle’s concern is that Hill, whether consciously or not, is validating a predominantly American bias that sees soccer as “foreign and part of the other.”
Another problem is that Hill, by injecting himself into the book, left himself vulnerable to attack. “It reads like a spy novel or something,” says Stephen Brunt, columnist for Sportsnet Magazine, who admits that he was initially skeptical. “The notion that there could be these incredibly elaborate conspiracies involving Asian gamblers and obscure soccer leagues and then right through to the World Cup, that goes against my nature.”
The problem with verifying some of Hill’s allegations, says Simon Kuper, author ofSoccernomics and a columnist for the Financial Times, is that “by the nature of the investigation, he is the only one there, so you have to take him at his word.” And while Kuper says “the book is not proof in courts, as it were,” he stands by Hill’s work.
As does Brunt, who says that “after watching events unfold, you realize what a remarkable job he’s done there. It’s pretty clean.” Brunt also defends Hill’s use of pseudonyms to conceal the identities of several key figures. “There probably is a school out there that says all sources should be identified and everything should be transparent. But the fact is there are types of reporting where you can’t do that, if you’re going to tell certain kinds of stories. And I think this is probably one of those.”
“Most people regard themselves as loving sport just because they switch on and watch it on television. I had risked everything for it, so I wasn’t going to put up with it anymore.”
According to Kuper, part of the reason why the story remained hidden for so long is that most people don’t want to know that the game is fixed, including the media. “People who live off of soccer—that includes me—most of us don’t want to destroy the industry, and you risk doing that if you lift the lid off of the garbage can, and that’s what he’s doing.”
James Sharman, host of The Footy Show on The Score, agrees. “There are a lot of people in this business who are operating in sports media, and they can’t really upset certain people too much because they have a career to build.” That’s why Sharman is thankful for Hill’s efforts. “He takes these fixers and holds them to the high standards, saying, ‘this is my game that you’re ruining.’”
Hill refers to this initial resistance as a “Cassandra moment.” In Greek mythology, Cassandra has the gift of prophecy, but a curse is cast upon her so that her predictions are no longer believed. What helped Hill deal with the situation was boxing, which he says has taught him to stay calm. “It doesn’t do you any good to be angry when you’re fighting.”
Hill’s reputation was on the line. He learned to be patient, and when pushed, he would wait for his moment to push back. “I would say, ‘excuse me, there are two journalists in this conversation, and only one of us has risked his life to protect sports and it’s not you, so figure out which one of us loves sports more.’”
In short, Hill fought back. “Most people regard themselves as loving sport just because they switch on and watch it on television. I had risked everything for it, so I wasn’t going to put up with it anymore.” Above all, he learned that “you don’t get thank-you notes for revealing corruption.”
What you do get are threats. The most notable came from a European sporting official who told Hill, “I have friends of the kind that you know, and they will fuck you over if you betray us.”
Also, by the time Hill published The Fix, he had racked up over $20,000 of credit card debt to help support his investigation. “I believed that the story was so significant that I couldn’t drop it. It was a massive financial gamble, but I had seen this gang in operation and wasn’t going to let it go.”
FOUR YEARS LATER, HILL CONTINUES to pursue his quest. Today he is bringing his message to Prime Time Sports, the popular Canadian radio program on 590 The FAN.
Twenty minutes before showtime, he waits to be picked up at the corner of Logan and Bain near Toronto’s Greektown, dressed in black slacks and a blue dress shirt. Despite the early-summer heat, he is once again sporting a scarf, this time black with white streaks.
“I’m not sure why they’re having me on twice in one week,” he says, stepping into the silver Lincoln sent by the radio station. “I guess they’re short on hot topics.”
Hill settles into the beige back seat. He sees the complimentary candy, but reaches for his smartphone. “I’m checking to make sure that I’m not missing any major stories,” he says, as his fingers scroll through The New York Times, the Toronto Star and The Guardian. “I don’t want them to call me on as an expert and not know what they’re talking about.”
With minutes to spare, Hill arrives at the studio. The show’s producer meets him at the door and begins going over the talking points. The inscription on the entrance reads, “Through these doors walk the greatest on-air talent in the world SN590 – The FAN.”
The hot topic they’re discussing is the recent announcement that Mario Monti, Italy’s prime minister, wants to suspend soccer for two to three years because of allegations of corruption involving more than half of the country’s professional teams. The problem is now systemic, and it’s affecting one of the top leagues in Europe.
“Gamblers are like alcoholics, they are going to betray you at a certain point. They can’t help it. They owe their…they owe their control to something else.”
Half an hour later, Hill walks out and shakes hands with the hosts, Jeff Blair and John Shannon. Hill has enjoyed the conversation, as well as the jabs at his scarf.
In addition to Italy, there are now police investigations into match-fixing in Turkey, Finland, Singapore, South Korea, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Israel, China, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Australia and Germany.
In September 2012, according to Hill and the Daily Mail in England, Richard Kingson, the former goalkeeper of Ghana’s national team, publicly stated that match-fixers approached him at the 2006 World Cup and offered him $300,000 to let in two goals. While he may not have taken the money, it’s a troubling revelation, as is a recent survey by FIFPro, a world soccer players’ union, in which nearly a quarter of the more than 3,000 eastern and southern European players questioned said that they were aware of match-fixing in their domestic leagues.
The ongoing Bochum trial in Germany is investigating one of the largest instances of corruption in European soccer, involving over 300 games in 10 countries. There is even evidence supporting Hill’s argument that match-fixing is endangering the popularity of the game. Researchers in the United Kingdom investigating Italy’s Calciopoli scandal, which broke in 2006, have seen attendance figures for punished clubs drop by 15 to 16.5 percent in comparison to the non-punished clubs. This research, conducted four years after the scandal, estimates that more than $84 million in attendance revenue has been lost.
Even as Hill leaves the studio of 590 The FAN and re-enters the silver Lincoln, he’s back on his phone. While he has been vindicated, the fixers are still out there working to corrupt the sport he loves. He knows this because even though he’s exposed them, he still has contacts in the Asian gambling world.
Hill puts down his phone in order to explain. “Those guys are gamblers”—he leans forward, his voice dropping as if he’s sharing a secret—“and gamblers are like alcoholics, they are going to betray you at a certain point. They can’t help it. They owe their…they owe their control to something else.”
THE FIRST TIME I MET DECLAN Hill was on a soccer field in 2008. I was playing pickup with friends when he approached, said “Hi, I’m Dec,” and joined in. What’s great about playing with Hill is his self-belief. Players like him make a difference—they’re the ones you try to get the ball to when they’re on your team, and the ones you need to stop when they’re not. Back then, Hill’s book was still months away from publication, and to us he was simply another player, someone who might show up on a Friday to kick the ball around.
Today, The Fix is an international bestseller, published in 17 languages. In the past year, Hill has travelled to Turkey, Antigua, the Caymans and Finland to make presentations on his work. He estimates that since the book came out, he has done over 450 interviews, and with each new match-fixing scandal the phone keeps ringing.
In 2013, Hill will release a book based on his thesis, Greed and Glory: Match-fixing in Professional Football. “It’s about the nuts and bolts of corruption, including, in part, how you actually put a corrupt team together.” He’s also contemplating a sequel to The Fix.
It has now been nearly 13 years since Hill’s meeting in Moscow, and over four since he published The Fix. Amongst his friends, there’s a worry that perhaps he is becoming a “one-note Johnny.” After all, there are only so many ways to keep writing about the same issue.
It should then come as no surprise that Hill is already working on a new project. For now, all that he’ll say is, “It’s on the subject of our times.” He’s ready to clear the stage. “At this moment I’m the world’s expert on match-fixing, and in the next year or two, I’d like to pass the torch.”
The fact that Hill can walk away is the ultimate measure of success. While he wasn’t the first to write about match-fixing in soccer, he went deeper than any other, and through sheer tenacity has taken the story to the tipping point. He has shed enough light on the issue to ensure that it will not disappear. Thanks to Hill, match-fixing is now on the agenda of every major international sports organization, and reporters around the world are now on the story.
While we wait to see what comes next, let’s remember that Hill is only in his 40s and has plenty of stories left to tell. He’s faced his critics and is ready for his next fight. It’s intense work, but as he says, “I used to be an actor. That was much tougher.”
© Ignacio Estefanell 2013