Match fixing is a broad term that encompasses all the different activities that result in the manipulation of any aspect of a game, including the end result. It is a global problem affecting sports and by extension sports gambling. Match fixing violates the rules of the game and is often regarded as a criminal activity by law. Match-fixing comes in two forms. There are:
- Gambling-related match fixing - which occurs when a person or group seeks to manipulate a result in order to win a wager themselves or to assist others to win a wager. This type of behavior can have a significant cost for not only bookies but for honest bettors who are not in on the fix.
- Non-gambling related fixing can occur for a variety of reasons. Often tournament structures, or tournament schedules may incentivize a player to reduce effort in order to receive a more favourable match-up at a later time or obtain additional rest before a more lucrative tournament in coming days.
Why do people fix matches? According to popular UK betting thinktank Online Betting, the most common reason people fix matches is to get a big win from Bookmakers. Since sports betting is largely uncertain, some people are tempted to take a step towards a bit more certainty. They are willing to do unlawful things to shift the fortune of a match in their favour. This is dangerous because that natural competitive experience that brings so much fun and enjoyment is taken off, and a game becomes like a pre-set drama with unrealistic scorelines. Such unsportsmanlike behaviour undertaken to cheat Bookmakers have been frowned at globally. While the vast majority of punters wouldn’t go anywhere near the world of match fixing, for some the lure is too attractive.
Some major match fixing scandals
In 1980, there was a massive match-fixing scandal in Italy, popularly known as Totonero 1980. It was discovered that football teams from both Serie A and Serie B were selling matches for money. The clubs, players and managers involved were punished, while AC Milan and Lazio were relegated to Serie B. Players were also implicated, and this damaged the credibility of Italian football for many years. The sports world was shocked by the fact that some of the clubs managed to pick favourable referees for certain fixtures.
In 2005, the damaging Bundesliga Scandal took place. A referee named Robert Hoyzer had been fixing and betting on matches in German leagues. It’s believed that he was regularly attending meetings with three brothers who were part of a Croatian gambling syndicate with strong connections to organised crime. In a match between Paderborn and Hamburg. Paderborn were awarded two questionable penalties, while the obviously better side Hamburg had a man sent-off, and ended up losing 4-2. After investigations, Hoyzer was jailed and banned from football for life, that was after he exposed other referees and some players involved in the fixing of matches.
In 2006, one of the biggest match fixing incidents in Europe took place. Popularly known as the Calciopoli, the Italian police intercepted a number of illegal telephone calls, which provided initial evidence of a wide-ranging network of corruption involving club managers and the Italian referee’s organization. The likes of Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio were all involved. Juventus were actually stripped of their title for the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 league campaigns and relegated to Serie B. While other clubs escaped such a harsh punishment, with the likes of AC Milan and Fiorentina given a points deduction and forced to play games behind closed doors.
Nigeria had her share of scandals when FIFA handed a life ban and hefty fine of CHF 50,000 to Nigeria sports legend and coach Samson Siasia. He was indicted as a collaborator in fixing a 2011 Nigeria-Argentina friendly match in Abuja.
These incidents and tough responses meted out proves that the entire sports world is waging an unrelenting war against all forms and facets of match fixing.
Syria - A bastion of match fixing
Syria has been notorious for match fixing at the very highest levels in recent times. Football in the war-torn country has witnessed a lot of bribery and corruption issues that authorities have tried to sweep under the carpet. In 2009, members of the Syrian Football Federation (SFF) were forced to resign after facts emerged that several officials were involved in a match-fixing scandal. In fact, Goal.com reported that the entire Football Association (FA) resigned after it was proven that they were involved in fixing the results of the local league. Referees are not left out. It was reported by Enab Baladi, an independent Syrian news media that in the syrian league, influential businessmen had influenced the choice of a referee, while referees are also subject to threats, extortion, insults from the public, and are poorly remunerated. Also for a long time, one of the foremost clubs in Syria Al Jaish Damascus which is controlled by the Assad government was accused of match fixing and corruption, but was able to fend off all allegations due to government backing. Unsurprisingly, Al Jaish have won 6 of the last 9 Syrian league seasons. In January 2021, there were a series of matches which had all the trappings of match fixing. The games of the Syrian Cup played on the 12th of January 2021, as shown by LiveScores saw unrealistic scorelines: Al Jaish beating Safita FC 8-0, Al-Wathba defeating Soran SC 10-0, Tishreen beating Al-Nawras 10-0, and other unreasonable outcomes as shown on 777Score.com. The unrealistic results of the games was an early indicator that there could have been some kind of manipulation in the Syrian Cup games.
The fight against match fixing continues...
Today, match fixing continues across several sports. Little wonder why UEFA is still investing heavily in the fight against the unfair practice. In late 2019, UEFA began looking for better ways to investigate and prosecute match-fixing cases in partnership with the police, prosecutors, and other law enforcement agencies. In August 2019, the German league’s governing body renewed its partnership with Sportradar to track and expose any form of activity that could lead to match fixing. However, it is usually a case of “whoever is not caught is not a thief; but whoever is caught is a thief.” The fact is match fixing continues to go unnoticed in the unpopular leagues without structured surveillance and ethical checks like Syria’s. The whole sports community is aware of the dangers of match fixing and will not rest on their oars, as they clamp down on those who seek to abuse sports and influence the outcome of games for selfish interests.