All Liga 1 referees are allegedly involved in match-fixing. (Antara Photo/Andreas Fitri Atmoko)

Match Fixing Scandal Forces Shake Off in Indonesian Football

FEBRUARY 21, 2019

Jakarta. The future of professional football in Indonesia is hanging by a thread.

It is increasingly unclear when Liga 1, the country's top-tier professional football league, will start its new season after a massive match-fixing scandal led to the arrest and resignation of key organizers. 

The police have arrested several officials of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) in the past three months for their alleged involvement in match-fixing, recently revealed to be a deep-seated problem in the country's professional league.  

Joko Driyono, PSSI's interim chairman, was also arrested and charged with tampering with evidence related to a match-fixing case.

A number of officials at Liga Indonesia Baru, the league’s organizer, have resigned from their posts, including president director Berlinton Siahaan and chief commissioner Glenn Sugita, who is also the owner of one of the country's oldest and biggest football clubs, Persib Bandung. 

Liga Indonesia's shareholders approved their resignation on Monday in an annual general meeting but so far have named no replacement. 

At the PSSI congress in Bali in January—which saw the resignation of much-maligned PSSI chairman Edy Rahmayadi—it was announced that Liga 1 will kick off on May 8 following the President’s Cup, a preseason tournament that will start on March 2. 

But PSSI general secretary Ratu Tisha Destria said the schedule is now subject to change as clubs, organizers and the football association scramble to cope with the aftermath of the match-fixing scandal.

"We need to anticipate everything that could happen, and also focus on carrying out the programs we've already planned," Ratu said. 

The uncertainty surrounding Liga 1's start this year and the scandals at PSSI have left clubs who own shares in organizer Liga Indonesia Baru uneasy to say the least.

According to Indonesian Professional Sports Agency (BOPI), which oversees all professional sports in Indonesia, problems in scheduling will lead to more rule breaches in Indonesia's most popular professional sport. 

"Never leave it to the last minute. Don't let players come into the country on a tourist visa and earn money without paying taxes," BOPI chairman Richard Sam Bera said.  

"We will continue to coordinate with all the relevant parties to make sure this doesn't happen," Richard said.

Match Fixing

Police began investigating the match-fixing scandal in December, following a bombshell television interview with an anonymous source by senior journalist Najwa Shihab in November that revealed how deep the match-fixing hole goes in Indonesian pro football. 

Najwa's interview with the source revealed that all Liga 1 referees were allegedly involved in match-fixing.

"The referees get their assigments from the Referee Committee. If they want to 'play,' the clubs would know about it. If they want to 'play' for a club, the club will contact the referee [and tell him] that if they win, he will get a certain amount," the anonymous source told Najwa.

The police formed a special team called the Anti-Football Mafia Task Force to investigate match-fixing in Liga 1. The team has so far named 15 individuals and charged them for extortion, score manipulation and tampering with evidence.

On Wednesday, the police also questioned Berlinton, the former Liga 1 president director, as a witness in the match-fixing case. 

PSSI meanwhile has established a new committee to come up with new procedures to prevent match-fixing from happening again in the future. 

"Inspection has to happen in every football match, be it in Liga 1, Liga 2 or Liga 3. There will be zero tolerance for any violation," said retired police general Badrodin Haiti, an adviser in the committee. 

The committee will not stand in the way of the ongoing police investigation, but in the future it will have the authority to decide whether individual violations will be investigated by PSSI or considered as criminal violations to be investigated by the police, Badrodin said.