The Unfortunates of Match Fixing

For as long as there has been sports there has been gambling on sports and likewise match fixing has always been a concern. Let’s quickly define it.

Match Fixing is the manipulation of a sport match outcome by competitors, referees, venue staff or other officials. This includes deliberate fixing of the final score or fixing a segment of the match (i.e. spot-fixing). It also includes deliberate officiating bias, deliberate underperformance by players, preplanned early withdrawal, and interference with the playing venue.

This is a concern to both sports fans and sports bettors. Cricket and Soccer (Futbol) have been prime targets as of recent. India (short betting guide) is on the forefront because of their massive size and betting underground society. Next time someone dismisses a suggestion a match might be fixed reference them to this article you are reading or to this one about point shaving examples. I share dozens of examples of known fixes and this does not cover all that are known and of course covers only the times a fix was detected. Here I’ll also explain how certain types of match fixing is done and conclude with how it is best detected.

The History and Known Fixes – By Sport and Type

Again fixing matches has always been a factor. The Ancient Olympics that began in 776 BC had plenty of cheats. The first recorded instance of a fix came in the 98th installment of the Ancient Olympics when Eupolus of Thessaly bribed boxers to take a fall. At the 112th installment Callippus of Athens got his pentathlon competitors to do the same. At the 226th, Egyptian boxers Didas and Sarapammon fixed the full outcome of their match.

In ancient times the penalty was a fine. The fines collected were used to build bronze statues of gods on the roads leading to the stadium. These were inscribed with descriptions of the offense and were there as a reminder the competition was about skill and honoring the gods, not about money and gambling. Today match fixing is just a relevant as back then, and the penalties have escalated to prison time and lifetime bans depending on the severity of the fix.

1919 Eight Men Out

Most Americans are well familiar with the story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox (for those living elsewhere you can read it here). This was covered in many films including the 1988 movie Eight Men Out and the 1989 film Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner.

The part everyone knows is that 8 players were given lifetime bans from baseball for intentionally losing games, which led to the Cincinnati Reds winning the World Series. The part history often fails to tell is prior to this scandal, bookmaking was mostly a tolerated profession and sports betting a legitimate form of entertainment. This scandal turned the public view of bookmaking highly negative, sports leagues became firmly opposed to betting and US states began passing laws to criminalize it.

Spot-Fixing

One of the newest forms of cheating is spot-fixing. At online betting sites such as www.bet365.com it is now possible to wager dozens of matches daily while they are in-play. They accept both in-play and pre-match wagers on many exotic betting markets. These include whether the next play will be a pass or run in American football, and which player will score the next goal in soccer. It also includes the total runs in a cricket over, or even the result of the next bowl, or what the next method of dismissal will be. For tennis, volleyball and table tennis you can wager on races to a certain number of points or which team will score a specific point in the match. This is only a small sample of the over 1,000 exotic betting options available online. As mentioned in some of the following sections, spot fixing has become the latest form of match fixing to hit the press. It less often changes the game’s outcome and is harder to detect.

Cheating by Arena Staff

Match fixing is not always limited to players. In 1999 a Malaysian betting syndicate was caught installing a remote-control device to disable floodlights at the home stadium of Premier League team Charlton Athletic. This was done with help of a corrupt arena employee. Future investigation showed they were responsible for previously unsuspected “floodlight failures” at West Ham’s stadium in November 1997 and Crystal Palace’s stadium in December 1997. The deal here was if the games were suspended after halftime they still counted for betting purposes.

Cheating by Officials

In American sports, Tim Donaghy is the most known example of match fixing by an official. After 13-seasons as an NBA referee he resigned on July 9, 2007 due to FBI allegations he bet on games that he officiated. Evidence showed he made calls that affected point spreads in those games. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Upon his release he became a tout (pick seller).

In football (soccer) there have been many scandals involving refs. In 2004, nineteen referees were arrested for involvement in fixing South African football matches. The 2005 German Bunesliga scandal saw referee Robert Hoyzer sentenced to 2 years and 5 months in prison for betting matches he officiated. Brazil football had a referee scandal that same year when it was found referees Edílson Pereira de Carvalho and Paulo José Danelon accepted bribes to fix a football match. Recently officials from Zimbabwe have been banned over a match fixing scandal known as Asiangate.

These are only some of the many examples involving corrupt officiating. To mention one more, a 2012 Olympics boxing match was overturned and the referee was expelled after a boxer won by decision despite being knocked down five times in one round.

Horse Racing Fixes

Horse racing is one of the easiest sports fix. In a recent article I mentioned allegations Pakistan bookmakers fixed horse racing in the 1980s. This of course happens all over the world at both small and large tracks. From tote manipulation, drugging, or just early signs a favorite is now a non-runner, race fixing happens. In 2004, peer to peer betting exchange www.betfair.com provided London police evidence that led to the arrest of jockey Kieren Fallon and fifteen others suspected of race fixing. Fallon was however found not guilty on all charges.

Match Fixing in Football (Soccer)

Football (soccer) has historically had the highest number of match fixing scandals. I already mentioned ones involving Germany, Brazil, South Africa and Zimbabwe earlier in this article. There have been more in each of those nations involving players, but covering them all would take a book.

Asia has perhaps the most corruption. In fall of 2009, Chinese Premier Hu Jintao called the Chinese football league a national disgrace, saying there was so much corruption and fixes it embarrassed China. A Malaysian cabinet minister made similar claims estimating up to seventy-percent of matches in their leagues were corrupted. Similar corruption has been found in other Asian nations including Vietnam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

Singapore had some history of the same but has managed to get it under control with their new state owned online betting site singaporepools.com.sg. China is now doing the same with their site state owned betting site sporterry.cn. Japan and Korea have followed with J-League and K-League betting terminals spread across their nations.

Of course, not all football match-fixing comes from Africa and Asia. The 1997 BBC film The Fix dramatized the great English football betting scandal of the 1960’s. 33 players were prosecuted for betting against the team they played for in the English football league. A similar scandal took place in 1915. Italy has also had its share of scandal.

In 2000, the Italian Football Federation found three players from Serie A Atalanta and five players from Serie B Pistoiese rigged the score of their Italian Cup match. Italian betting company snai.it had taken an abnormally high volume of bets on 1-0 halftime correct score and 1-1 full-time correct score. In this match Atalanta scored minutes before the first half, and Pistoiese equalized in the final minutes of full time. Of course Italy had a much bigger scandal known as Calciopoli in 2006. Vast details of this are shared in Wikipedia entry: 2006 Italian football scandal.

Again, this only a small sample. There have been allegations of football matches fixed in Finland, Austria, Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Turkey, Belgium, Russia and Switzerland too.

Cricket Match Fixing

Some reports suggest fixing has long been part of cricket and prior to the boom of online betting in 2000, Mumbai bookies controlled the odds and scripted segments of matches. It wasn’t until a few cricketers were caught that major finger pointing was done.

In 1994, players of Australia’s test cricket team made allegations that Pakistan’s captain Saleem Malik offered them bribes to fix a match. He was initially cleared. Two of the players making this claim Shane Warne and Mark Waugh were found to have some involvement in gambling themselves. They had sold information in 1994 to Indian bookmakers about pitch and weather conditions. Not yet a crime, the two were only fined and ICC added new rules to make this a much more serious offense going forward.

A lot of fallout came when in 2000, when Delhi police obtained phone evidence that South African captain Hansie Cronje had been paid by a bookie to throw matches. Caught, Cronje confessed and also implicated Saleem Malik (Pakistan), Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja (India). This was the second time Pakistan captain Saleem Malik had been accused. Jadeja was banned from the game for four years, while the other three were given lifetime bans.

Pakistan Spot Fixing Scandal

The most recent cricket scandal involved sports agent Mazhar Majeed and members of the Pakistan national team. On August 28, 2010 UK news tabloid News of the World published video of a sting operation. On hidden camera Majeed was recorded accepting money and informing undercover reporters of details of a test match. He claimed in the first bowl of the third over Mohammad Amir would deliver a no-ball, and Mohammad Asif would do the same on sixth delivery of the tenth over. Both did occur exactly as described. Majeed bragged he worked with 7 members of the team also naming captain Salman Butt and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal.

Mohammad Amir was given a 6-month prison sentence and banned from the game for 5-years. Mohammad Asif was given 1-year prison sentence and 7-year ban. Salman Butt was implicated in additional match fixing and as the captain, and player side ring leader of the fixes, he was sentenced to 30-months in prison and given a 10-year ban from the game. Their agent Mazhar Majeed was given a similar prison sentence. There have been numerous other players investigated but these the only three players that have been charged and banned as part of this scandal thus far.

Japanese Sumo Wrestling

In Japan, top ranked Sumo wrestlers are paid much more than lower ranked opponents. Speculation of match fixing had long been present but was denied by Japan Sumo Association repeatedly. In 2011, records of text messages alleged 14 wrestlers were involved in match fixing. All were eventually found guilty and forced to retire.

Tennis Match Fixing

Tennis has also had a great deal of match fixing scandal. Only in 2012, multiple players banned from the sport exhausted all levels of appeal. The world sport’s highest court upheld a lifetime ban of Austrian player Daniel Koellerer in March 2012, and of Serbian player David Savic in September 2012. Each was involved in match fixing. This is another section that would take a book to cover as match fixing scandals in tennis have been many.

Australian Sports

The top sports from Australia, National Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Football League (AFL), have had their fair share of scandal as well.

NRL Rugy

On August 21, 2010 Tabcorp reported that 95% of wagers it had taken on first scoring play were on the unusual option of a Cowboys penalty goal. An opposing player Ryan Tandy gave away possession to the Cowboys in the opening moments of the match and then gave away a penalty. This made it highly likely a Cowboys penalty kick would be the first score. The Cowboys however decided on an attacking option and scored a second-try instead. There soon came allegations that Ryan Tandy himself had bet on that outcome.

Tandy denied allegations when investigated by the NSW Crime Commission. He was arrested on February 2, 2011 for providing false evidence to law enforcement. On October 6, 2011 he was found guilty of attempting to gain $113,345 (at the expensive of Tabcorp) financial advantage for others. He was placed on a 12-month good behavior bond and fined $4,000. The light sentence was likely due to having been found not guilty of spot-fixing in a previous trials, and lack of anything but strong circumstantial evidence.

ALF Betting Scandals

In the ALF, Essendon assistant coach Dean Wallis was suspended in 2011 for 14-months for placing exotic wagers on segments of AFL matches. Players from Brisbane and Hawthorn have been investigated for potential spot fixing as well. A third AFL betting scandal involved TAB corp taking heavy betting action in 2011 on Nick Maxwell to score the first goal of a match at odds 100-to-1. It was discovered his Collingwood teammate Heath Shaw also made a wager on the same. He was fined $20,000 and banned for 14-games for betting with inside information on exotics. The player he bet Nick Maxwell was fined $10,000 himself for telling a family he would be starting in the forward line in this match.

How is Match Fixing Detected?

A common theme you’ll find in this article is irregular betting activity is what leads to most match fixing investigations. It was betting in Las Vegas and Reno that detected the college sports scandals of the mid 1990s. It was betting with Snai.it that detected the 2000 Italian Cup fix. There are countless examples beyond what is covered in this article of Betfair, Ladbrokes and William Hill turning over suspicious betting activity to sports organizations and police. In fact Betfair shares a percent of its profit with several sports leagues in exchange for their cooperation in investigations. Betting with Australia’s TAB is what detected the NRL and AFL scandals.

The majority of nations finally understand this. China, Japan, Singapore, and Korea all have recently launched state owned legal betting sites. While it would be easy to claim additional revenue as their motivation, this is false. Each gives the proceeds of their betting operations back to the advancement of sports in their nation. This assures there is more future and opportunity for young athletes pursuing sports as a mean to education, experience or a career.

It is unfortunately, some nations have yet to discover this. As it stands now well over half the world’s population has domestic sources for legal betting available. In the countries where it remains illegal, it is likely the match fixing scandals that are undoubtedly already occurring will continue to go undetected.

Author:  Jim Griffin
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