I HAVE warned on this blog before about the danger of headlines posed as questions. But floating around on the Liverpool Echo’s message board is one of the most unnerving football conspiracy theories since those spate of floodlight failures about 10 years ago.
You have to tread carefully with consipracy theories, but here’s what I know. Someone using the name ‘confused’ posted the Champions League quarter and semi-final draws on the Echo’s message board – more than 90 minutes before it took place.
The message was timed at 10.28am (the draw was at noon), and the Echo today insisted that it was virtually impossible to manipulate the timings of a post.
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According to the Liverpool Echo’s report on this, several forum users had also seen the post before the draw was made. In fact, if you visit the forum, you can see several posts afterwards rubbishing the initial comment by ‘confused’.
It was also claimed that bookmakers in Liverpool were refusing to take bets on the draw in advance, fuelling theories of a conspiracy – although it must be pointed out that the bookies said they were not taking bets on the draw anyway.
Was this because they were worried it might be fixed? There is no evidence to suggest this was the case, despite all the suggestions on the Echo’s forum of hot and cold balls in the draw bowl.
It has been known for bookmakers to be wary of taking bets on managerial appointments, where there is certainly potential for people to have inside knowledge. But a fixed draw? Well, UEFA insist it was all done fairly and above board.
So how did ‘confused’ get it right? The odds of guessing the complete draw correctly have been calculated at 191/1, so he would have needed to be very lucky to have got it that way.
UEFA spokesman William Gallard has another explanation.
Gaillard said of ‘confused’: “He must have supernatural powers. I know the people who did the draw and I am 150% certain it is completely honest.”
Of course, the floodlight failures conspiracy theories of the late 1990s turned out to be more than just theories. But that couldn’t be the case with the Champions League draw, could it?
Gaillard insists not.
“You might be able to fool a computer but everyone can see the teams are picked out fairly this way,” he said.
Liverpool, by the way, will play Arsenal.