Category Archives: MATCH-FIXING

The Slippery Slope of Betting Fraud and Match-Fixing

Why do professional athletes match-fix?

This is a question often asked when new match-fixing cases surface. Richard Mclaren of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) believes that for some, the answer is found in a slippery slope of betting.

“Betting on your own sport is a gateway to match-fixing. It can start innocent enough with small bets, but before long you might be compelled to drop the match for easy money.”

Athletes should know better
Richard McLaren explains that most players caught match-fixing pleads ignorance, and that years ago that would have been a viable excuse, but today the reality is different.

Case in point being the recent sentences in tennis and cricket were the defendants pleaded ignorance, but still was sentenced to long bans and substantial fines.

The bans range from months to lifetime bans, and the fines reached 100.000 dollars and above.

Part of the solution
According to Harri Syväsalmi from the Ministry of Culture and Education in Finland, the athletes need to take responsibility.

“Athletes need to be a part of the solution from the beginning instead of being a part of the problem.”

But according to Nick Garlick, senior specialist in organized crime networks from Europol, the law might need to be more lenient on the athletes themselves for a solution to be possible.

“Banning people for life for match-fixing may not be productive. It creates fear among the athletes, and makes reporting the crimes much less attractive for players.”

Unknown Club in England Generated More Bets Than FC Barcelona in The Asian Market

Nick Garlick
“The standard of the game does not matter. Bets will be placed on anything,” says Nick Garlick, Senior Specialist at Europol. Photo: Simon Pallesen

In February this year Europol and police teams from 13 countries blasted a bombshell over European football. A massive investigation uncovered attempts to fix more than 380 professional football matches with 425 officials, criminals and players involved from 15 countries.

Nick Garlick, Senior Specialist at Europol, told the Play The Game attendees, why an investigation like this hadn’t been conducted before.

“We had a unique opportunity. We were able to bring together so many, different authorities. We have not had this platform before and that is why such a big investigation was conducted now.”

Games at all levels can be hit by match-fixing
In the investigation games as high as in The Champions League were under suspicion of being fixed.

But it might as well have been in the 6th tier of the English League system. And in fact it was. In the recent case of Billericay Town, a club with a average attendance of 500, generated more bets in the Asian market than a FC Barcelona game.

“The standard of the game does not matter. Bets will be placed on anything,” Garlick said.

 

Preparation is the key in fighting match-fixing
Garlick also contributed to the solutions in fighting these criminal actions in football.

“Life bans may not be constructive. They create fear and players will not tell the truth.”

“We should be aware that match-fixing can happen. And when it does, we should be prepared,” Garlick concluded.

Declan Hill: Young Players are Not the Problem in Match-Fixing

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Match-fixing is not as big a problem among younger players as you might think. However it is a problem among players over 30 years, says Declan Hill. Photo: Simon Tordrup.

According to one of the world’s leading experts on match-fixing, investigative journalist Declan Hill, it is players over 30 years of age who are responsible for the biggest part of the match-fixing problem.

This goes against the common conception in many countries and agencies.

The common perception is that match-fixers prey on young and impressionable players, but according to Declan Hill, the problems are biggest with players over 30 who are not getting their salaries on time. And he has the data to back it up.

Old players are cynical

While young players who match-fix are often misguided and naive, the match-fixing players over 30, are seasoned and cynical. According to Declan Hill, they know the drill.

“If you go and tell these players that match-fixing is wrong and they should not do it, they are gonna say ‘fuck you. Show me that you care about me not getting paid instead’,” says Declan Hill.

Declan Hill also mentioned the case of Mario Cizmek, which was presented on Monday. In that case, the match-fixers only approached the older players and in fact, the young players were not allowed in.

Red flags

In his speech on Tuesday, Declan Hill mentioned the existence of some red flags in the fight against matchfixing. One of them was that primarily young players match-fix.

“This is not true,” Declan Hill commented.

According to a study he presented at his speech, the frequency of match-fixing for the first time rises with age, with players over 30 dominating the chart.

Betting Fraud: A Truly Global Issue

Money
In extreme situations relatively small matches has gained enormous financial interest. Photo: 401(K) 2013/Flickr.com

The globalized world has created its own share of globalized problems. Online gambling has seen an estimated rise of 150 percent over the last ten years, and with it, comes a wave of international organized crime.

According to Europol’s senior specialist Nick Garlick, there’s good reason for the criminals to be interested:

“It’s compelling for serious criminals, because it’s high reward and low risk. There’s a lot of money to be made, and many are willing to get involved.”

The Asian situation
According to Nick Garlick, Asian criminals are heavily involved in betting fraud and matchfixing all over the world. Modern technology makes it possible to gamble internationally, quickly and easy, and then send associates to fix the matches, and ensure the winnings.

The fairly unrestricted and convoluted Asian gambling market makes it much harder to expose the cheaters, and in extreme situations relatively small matches has gained enormous financial interest, and no legal action could be taken.

The end of the crime chain
“Europol is committed to fighting matchfixing,” Nick Garlick explained at the plenary session, and joint Europol investigations have had a lot of recent success. But, it is much harder to catch the criminals responsible, than the athletic perpetrators.

“The athletes are not criminal masterminds, and they usually conceal their crimes poorly. But they’re not interesting for Europol, because they’re the end of the criminal chain, and arresting them doesn’t affect the network,” according to Nick Garlick.

Match-fixing on the Political Agenda: What can EU do?

Danish MEP, Morten Loekkegaard, is shocked about the extends of matchfixing
Photo: Thomas Søndergaard/Play the Game

Over the recent years matchfixing has become a serious matter for The European Union. But with matchfixing being a subsidiary national matter, the possibilities to intertwine politics and sport are limited.

According to the Danish MEP Morten Løkkegaard transparency is the way to fight matchfixing

“The extends of matchfixing is a shock for all of us. It’s all about telling the stories and getting them out in the light. In that way matchfixing gets the political attention,” says Morten Løkkegaard, who applauds the presence of organizations like PlayTheGame.

Matchfixing hits the political agenda

In december last year matchfixing hit the political spotlight, and for the first time it was truly on the political agenda at a top meeting.

Hopefully that’s not the last time, Morten Løkkegaard stated.

“The top meeting gave us some useful conclusions and directions to the committee and the EU nations on our work in the future,” says Morten Løkkegaard.

Naming and shaming the badguys

According to Morten Løkkegaard it’s hard to predict, when we will see a measurable impact by the cooperation between the EU and the organizations fighting the matchfixing.

But he is completely aware of, what is needed.

“We need to create transparency and force the organizations to be cooperative. And we can do that, by naming and shaming those, who neglect democracy and transparacy,” Morten Løkkegaard adds.

FIFPro: Players have the Possibility to Say no to Match-Fixing, but Only in Theory

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FIFPro is the international football players organization

“Remember. Players are the victims, not the criminals,” was the message from Wil van Megen, the legal director of FIFPro, the international organization for over 50.000 football players, during his presentation at Play The Game.

But why is that? A player has the power to say no to participate in match-fixing, one would thing, but that’s not the case, according to van Megen.

The case of Mario Cizmek, the Croatian footballer, who became a match-fixer after not being paid for 14 months, states the perfect example.

Saying the truth has the highest price
Cizmek came through about his role in a match-fixing-scandal, was banned from football and sentenced to jail. The truth has too many consequences. 

“They do have a choice. Although that’s only in theory. I can mention the case of Simone Farina, who did the right thing, and that was the end of his career. There are no mechanisms to help the players,” van Megen said.

The Italian football player Simone Farina went to the police in 2011 after being offered 200.000 euros to throw a game. He never played again.

Lack of payment causes match-fixing
“We can create safer environments for players. In The Netherlands there are strict rules of payment of players. There are no big problems there. Club must pay on time,” van Megen said.

In a FIFPro study, The Black Book, on match-fixing in Eastern Europe 41.4 procent of the 3.337 players, who participated, did not receive money on time.

55 procent of them were approached by match-fixers.

Dale Sheehan from Interpol: Match-fixing is Growing

Chris Eaton argues that a cultur of rejection is needed. Foto: Simon Pallesen
Chris Eaton argues that a cultur of rejection is needed. Foto: Simon Pallesen

One of the frontliners in the war against match-fixing, Dale Sheehan, put cold facts on the table, in yesterday’s debate on how to fight the phenomenon.

Interpol has received reports about match-fixing from 70 countries this year alone.

Despite the shocking numbers, Dale Sheehan remains an optimist, and he believes that the war can be won.

10-year program against match-fixing

One of the reasons for his optimism is, that Interpol and FIFA launched a 10 year cooperation deal to combat match fixing in 2011.

The program works on many levels, but prevention is the main strategy. A lot of e-learning programs have been created targeting various groups of potential match-fixers such as established players, young players, referees, managers and coaches.

But the efforts go further than that. Face to face training og is also a part of fight.

Match-fixing in football is growing

Interpol have had a busy year regarding match-fixing, resulting in more than 2.000 arrests.

But the fact that match-fixing is still growing shows that more needs to be done, to win the war against the gambling syndicates.

As prevention is seen as the main tool, the young players are crucial contenders.

”We need a culture of rejection”

According to Chris Eaton, director of the International Center for Sports Security, proscecution does not solve anything.

”We need a culture and automatic rejection”, he said during the debate.

He argued, that this culture could be superior to the money problems, which the Professional Football Players association identified as the main reason to the match-fixing scandals.

The Perfect Storm: Betting Fraud and Match-Fixing

According to Chris Eaton of the ICSS, the conditions of the modern world constitutes the perfect circumstances for betting fraud and match-fixing and this opens a gateway for organized crime into the sports world.

In the future maybe even terrorism could be funded through illegal gambling.

“The big economies involved in sports betting is locally regulated, where they should be globally regulated. Action is needed, and quickly. Terrorists have adopted a lot of practices from organized crime, who’s to say when they will adopt match fixing and betting fraud. ”

A billion dollar business
The illegal gambling markets shifts somewhere between 365 billion and 1000 billion a year, according to Chris Rasmussen from the World Lottery association.

It is a completely micro-transaction driven economy, both locally and internationally, which makes the need for an international united governing body even more pressing.

The worst threat to sport
Chris Eaton considers match fixing to be the worst threat to sports, because it injects a criminal element into sport.

“Doping is terrible, but it is still cheating to win. Match-fixing is cheating to lose, and it finances organized crime and fuels violence,” he says.

How to Avoid Match-Fixing in Smaller Sports

The match-fixing problem is omnipresent in big sports as well as smaller ones. And it is hard to avoid. As the betting companies get smarter, so do the match-fixers.

But there are some measures one can take against the fixing of matches. Chris Rasmussen is coordinator at World Lottery Association, and in charge of monitoring unusual betting patterns in small sports as well as large ones.

According to him, the Danish Lottery Association of which he is a part, take certain measures to avoid match-fixing, especially in the sports where the players aren’t given a salary.

“There is a limit on how much money you can bet on certain sports. In Denmark, for instance, you can bet on floorball, which is an amateur sport. But you can only bet something like 500 kroner (67 euro, red.),” says Chris Rasmussen.

Why are small sports easy to matchfix?

It is always easier to convince people to cheat if they have everything to win and nothing to lose. In the case of non-professional sports, what the match-fixers have to offer is often a lot of money for the players.

At the same time, the players don’t face losing their livelihood if the fixing is discovered.

This combined makes it necessary for the Danish Lottery Association to put a limit on single bets placed. This makes the cost/benefit ratio for the matchfixers lean towards matchfixing not being worth the effort.

Match-fixing is rarely discovered

But at the same time, only a few of the match-fixing cases are ever discovered.

“My estimate is that we only discover 15-20 percent of the cases,” says Chris Rasmussen.