Caution: Match Fixing in the Beautiful Game

by Philip MacDonald | Last updated

A topic many soccer fans (and sports fans for that matter) fail to acknowledge or don’t take seriously is match fixing. Match fixing has polluted many sports and it has been going on for a long time at every level. How it happens is an entirely separate process but believe me…it happens and it will continue to happen.

Most people are surprised, even shocked, to hear that match fixing occurs.  Because it is such a secretive and manipulative process, the general public remains blind and unaware.

The purpose of this blog is not to promote match fixing in any stretch of the mind, rather this blog is targeted at informing players, coaches, parents, fans and officials of the potential dangers that arise because of a few greedy and conniving individuals.  Do not be susceptible to the evil’s present in this sport – educate yourselves.

Individuals with a lot of power and a lot of money are generally the ones that instigate these corrupt actions.  These crooks will usually target referees and key players in the fixing. Trying to persuade an entire team to dictate the outcome of a game is very difficult because many individuals will firmly stand against illegal actions such as match fixing.

The worst situations arise when the gamblers involved are professional athletes. Don’t kid yourself, many professional soccer players love to gamble. In fact, many everyday citizens love to gamble. Just on a smaller scale. The bigger the paycheque, as in the case of professional athletes, the more money they are likely to gamble and the deeper they are willing to go.

The UEFA Champions League: betting on the game of soccer can easily occur. The biggest games can be fixed but just as easily the smaller, less important, games can be fixed. In the early stages of the Champions League, top clubs might lose games to smaller clubs once the clubs have learned they are advancing from the group stage. You are unlikely to hear of the top clubs in Europe being eliminated early on from the Champions League but upsets do occur in the early stages of the tournament. The same goes for games in the early stages of the World Cup and European Cup. Betting doesn’t always have to be about who will win or lose but also about the finer details of the game such as how many corners, throw-ins and yellow/red cards will be given.

Family threats: threatening people is a common tactic used in order to get people to behave a certain way. It can happen in betting or prior to combat for that matter. If a dangerous person or group of persons say they know where your family go to school, work, where your family lives and the route they travel each day and that if you don’t throw a game in the manner they are telling you to do then bad things will happen to them…well you begin to listen. People who have nothing to lose but much to gain are even more likely to take these threats seriously.

Face it, professional sports have been tainted by money and gambling. Still don’t believe me?  Think back two years to the Italian Serie A scandal.  One of the most prestigious soccer leagues in the world was put under investigation and eventually convicted of match fixing.  The scandal was uncovered in May 2006 by Italian police, including referee’s, then league champions Juventus, and other major teams, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Regina.  A number of telephone interceptions showed a detailed network of relations between team managers and referees which resulted in fixing.  Heavy fines were imposed the teams and referee’s involved.   The teams were stripped of points and some of the teams lost their eligiblity in the European Champions League.

Today, money has become a large part of the game. It’s how athletes can play a kids game and be grossly overpaid. Most professional athletes have a huge competitive drive and gambling on matches is another way to curb that appetite.

Local Clubs: I played several years in the premier league in WOSL (Western Ontario Soccer League). Like many soccer leagues the bottom teams would get relegated to the first division and the top two teams in first division would get promoted to premier. The same process happened from premier, first division, second division and third division. This is a great way to keep motivation high for teams throughout the entire season, even if they are no longer contending to win the league. In London Ontario, most of the soccer clubs are organized by ethnic communities and thus to build up a quality team that can compete in premier is difficult, especially if you want to use players of your nationality (which may be low in numbers) based on your community. A lot of pride runs through these clubs and it’s not so much about winning a game but about representing your people, your community and the name of your club.

Two seasons ago my club, London Croatia, had finished second place and had our final game to play. We were playing the local Italian club who needed a win in order to remain in the premier division. We were not considering throwing the game but I can assure you that if a wealthy member of the Italian community had volunteered to pay players, the club or offer incentives so their team won then perhaps some, not all, but some players would have gone forward with the proposition. In this particular example, match fixing did not occur but the opportunity was there for it to happen and many more like this exist around the league. Surely someone will become greedy and get involved in this side of the game. And this is no different than any other league in world. Opportunities exist for linesman to miss handballs, offsides; for referees to become card-happy giving out red and yellow cards undeservedly and so on.

In the end, no matter what, it doesn’t change my passion for the beautiful game, perhaps just how I follow about certain teams and individuals.

To learn more on the topic of match fixing read Declan Hill’s fascinating book titled The Fix – Soccer and Organized Crime, which has received rave reviews and is an international best seller.

Remember: this blog is not meant to teach how match fixing is done but rather for the readers to be aware that it goes on.

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