These past few days with little actual football to be discussed, one topic has been dominating the discussions. No, not of (C)Ashley Cole on the verge of getting his 100th international cap. Depending on where you’re from, it doesn’t necessary have to be Paul Goscoigne’s headfirst fall into doom. The one I mean is about corruption in football, or to be more exact, match-fixing. It’s not the first time we’ve heard of such cases, my bet is (pun intended) that it won’t be the last.
I think two things are clear about match-fixing if we are speaking in context of the intention to fix a particular football match to end in a specific result. One, is to ensure that one side wins. In which case, a title contender would benefit if the opponent is instructed to lose or not win a particular match. The other, and far more relevant factor as to why match-fixing exist in the game today; is because of the money involved. The only major form of that is through football betting/gambling.
Here, where I am, football betting is prohibited. There is no legal avenue to placate that kind of interest. Where does the punters with huge interest in football and predictions? The presence and growing interest plus the lure of money; made it all easy for the underground football betting syndicate to mushroom out of this environment. The improvement in the internet and availability of live football matches on subscription television, amongst the main reason for the increased interest in the game.
Before the advancement in broadband technology, the method available was via the mobile short messaging service. Texts of latest odds were sent to hordes of gamblers looking to make a quick buck out of the performances of individuals close to 15,000 kilometers away. When the internet got faster, websites were designed for to put online bets and the services offered to many agents for a fee. In turn, these agents will garner punters and allocate each individual punter their own login credentials. Betting just got incredibly easy.
The odds available were initially only limited to the English Premier League but it soon expanded to cover most of the leagues in the world. From one perspective, it matches the increase in television subscriptions channels from 2 dedicated football channels to the now 8 channels. As the audience grew for the Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga; so did the odds available for betting. As with many things about gambling; the more, the better.
The elite leagues soon became unable to satiate demands. One of the main reasons is because these elite leagues don’t play every single day. In which case, there’s less or little money to be made on those non playing days. The “syndicates” had to come up with ways to generate profits on a daily or even hourly basis. Soon, punters were given access to put bets on various leagues all around the world, from the top to the conference level, at every hour of the day.
Inevitably, when the stakes switches from the top tier leagues to the lower divisions, opportunity arises. In such cases, the opportunity means rigging of games to ensure that the syndicate wins. The chance of rigging a game in the lower league is higher because of the money involved, or more specifically, the money that the teams and the players earn on a monthly basis. The attraction is there to make a large sum of money for very little effort and little effect. The little effect means games which are insignificant to the destiny of the title or promotion/relegation. Basically games which are otherwise meaningless to both teams but could provide extravagant rewards to the syndicates.
It boils down to the fact that these illegal betting are a form of business to some individual or a group of people. If there is no form of control over their “business”, then it would not have been so profitable and the “industry” would not be booming. Sometimes, the odds will clearly show that some fix had been done. Imagine a team in the top 4 of a league playing at home against the last placed team who are woefully out of form. However, the odds indicates that the away side has a better chance of winning or at least drawing the game. These unregulated betting sites are able to alter the odds as to their pleasing in order to confuse the punters and many would have fallen for their trap.
Over the years, from the conversations and number of podcasts from Europe which I’ve listened to, there seems to be an “understanding” that the fixers come from my part of the world. Hardly surprising and not unexpected at all. In a country where football betting is illegal, odds are printed out in the sports pages of nationwide circulated national newspapers. Tell me a logic for having such information printed in a mass media when there are supposedly no outlet to exercise knowledge of such information. Back in 1994, there was a major crack-down on match fixing in Malaysia. Numerous officials and players were banned and sent on exile after being found guilty. These days, odds are available for the local leagues here. Put two and two together, for what is happening is very obvious.
Unless betting on football games or any other sports for that matter is put to a stop, this scene of “match-fixing” will continue to persist.