Match Fixing - Why Do People Involved in Sport Agree to Match Fix? - Part 2

Published 12 June 2011 By: Kevin Carpenter

Kevin Carpenter's second part on corruption in sport. Now this may sound like a rhetorical question, and yes of course money is the main motivation, but in a true psychologists style there has to be reasons why some people and sports are more susceptible than others1, particularly given the professional and legal ramifications of getting caught. Further it is rarely money alone that is the sole reason for agreeing to participate in match fixing.

 

A first possible explanation is that individuals involved in sport are easier to manipulate than those involved in a team environment, where the risk is much higher due to complex interactive outcomes. This is often a reason put forward in tennis and snooker for instance. Furthermore this explains why referees are a prime target, particularly in football as evidenced in the case involving Mr Oriekhov amongst others mentioned in part 1, as they have a high degree of influence over the outcome of a contest.


Any sport, or level within a sport, which is scrutinised less rigorously will be more susceptible to matchfixing. This is often the case with lower league football, which is less strictly scrutiniseddueto its importance in the overall football pyramid in a particular country, for instance in Italy, or can arise due to a neglect on the part of the governing body in giving the seriousness of the threat of match fixing the true weight and resources it deserves. One such example of this is the ICC which, despite numerous high profile match and spot fixing cases (including former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje who was found guilty in 2000), spends less than 1% of its profit on its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit.2 


Historically Italian football again is the prime example of a third possible reason for the likely targets for match fixing as in end of season games, where neither team needs to win (in essence a ‘dead rubber’) they agree to play out a draw. So match fixing is more prevalent where the contest does not affect the final outcome of a competition. 

On a similar vein, where match fixing does not involve losing but only securing that certain actions take place, more commonly known as ‘spot fixing’, as in the case of the three Pakistani cricketers, then the feeling of guilt on a player / official and risk involved is far less, and therefore they are more likely to be open to offers made to them. This particular threat has become even more pressing in cricket since the advent of the Twenty20 format for two reasons: the combination of the party atmosphere, the entertainment and the celebrity status of the players which surround the Twenty20 revolution makes them more vulnerable to approaches from unscrupulous characters; and the extremely fast paced nature of the game makes it difficult to detect parts of the match which may have been spot-fixed.3 

The stand out reason in most peoples’ minds is, as ever, the allure of money. I have already stated some mind-boggling figures associated with the practice of match fixing and those offered to targets are no less startling given the context and circumstances for each individual. This can manifest itself in the fact that they are paid too little in general, or that their level of remuneration is viewed as unjust. The amount offered to John Higgins was £250,000 to throw just four single frames. Pakistan international cricketers are paid 20 times less per year than their English and Australian counterparts, and four times less than their Indian neighbours.4 This is partially due to the fact that Pakistan cannot raise revenue by playing in their home country due to security concerns and that the players are banned, for political reasons, from playing in the lucrative Indian Premier League.5 Mr Oriekhov was offered €50,000 to manipulate a single match, which cannot have been an insubstantial amount given Ukrainian referees are not full time professionals. Indeed football referees are often cited for this perceived injustice I mentioned in pay between the relative pittance they get paid and the extortionate amounts the players are paid that they seek to control.6 This is particular true in the upper echelons of the game where, for example, English Premier League referees are professional and earn around £100,000 per year whereas some of the players they officiate earn that and more in a week. 

Finally, and perhaps of a more troubling nature, is the prospect of agreeing to match fix as a result of duress. This was one of the defences put forward by John Higgins. Duress can take two forms: duress by threats and duress by circumstances.7 The legal hurdle to be overcome to be successful with either variants of this defence is high and not often successful in a sporting context. However, given the increasing prevalence and acknowledgement of the involvement of criminals and gangs who orchestrate large scale match fixing this may become an increasingly frequent tale when sports people are caught out. If you were told that if you did not agree to go along with the plan then your family will be in danger then what would you do? Suddenly the money seems quite appealing after all, and upholding your own reputation and that of the sport less so. 

Hopefully it is now clear to see that there are a multitude of reasons why illegal bookmakers and criminals try, and indeed succeed, in targeting certain sports, and individuals within those sports, more than others.

Ramifications of match fixing 

The ramifications of match fixing seem to take three forms: penalties from governing bodies; criminal sanctions; and reputational damage. I would argue that the final one of those can be equally, if not more so, damaging than the first and second which would usually strike the most fear into the hearts of people involved in sport. 

The ultimate responsibility to keep sport clean from match fixing lies with the governing bodies. In a report undertaken for the Government in February 20108, with the mandate to look at a wide range of issues relating to the integrity of sports betting, the panel formulated a uniform code of conduct on integrity which it recommended should be implemented across all sports. In doing so the panel examined how twelve of the governing bodies each currently dealt with the following threats: placing a bet; soliciting a bet; offering a bribe; receiving a bribe; misuse of privileged information; failing to perform to one’s merits; and reporting obligations. Worryingly in 38% of instances the governing bodies made no provision for the threats, indeed the IAAF (athletics) and Royal & Ancient/PGA (golf) make no provision in their rules for any of the seven. Presumably, and I would argue somewhat misguidedly perhaps, the IAAF puts too much emphasis on doping rather than race fixing. Indeed one of the panel’s conclusions was as follows, “It is imperative that sports governing bodies have clear rules in relation to betting and insider information in their sports and for those rules to be communicated in an effective manner which is clearly understood by participants or competitors". 

When contravening any rules the punishments have to be extremely severe as a deterrent and to show fans that this threat is being taken seriously. In part one it was mentioned how UEFA gave a life ban to Mr Oriekhov simply for failing to report that he had been approached to match fix. Similarly Daniel Koellerer was given a life ban by the ATP. As well as bans the other weapon in the armoury of sports governing bodies is fines, as seen in the punishment handed down to John Higgins and again to Daniel Koellerer. Fines have to be at least equal to the amount gained from participating in match fixing and in my opinion should have a penal element to them above and beyond this to give fines their true effectiveness.

Criminal sanctions are, some would argue, the most effective deterrent to match fixing. There is no other word like being called a 'criminal' for a sportsman’s personal and professional integrity to be eternally damaged. Once again criminal fines are an option, but more powerful in extreme cases is the possibility of a prison term, such as the threat of a maximum term of 7 years in prison facing the Pakistan cricketers.9 It is a positive sign that national crime prevention organisations are taking match fixing seriously, both in terms of the sources of the threat (which I will talk about in part 3) and those participating. Perhaps the most high profile instance of this is the German authorities who have already handed down prison sentences of nearly up to 4 years to three of the men implicated in a Europe-wide match fixing ring, with several more of the 200 suspected members to be sentenced in due course.10 

To allow such punishments to take place legislators in each country have to have well drafted, robust and overall effective laws in place. There was some scrutiny of this in the report into sports betting integrity in relation to the definition of ‘cheating’ under section 42 Gambling Act 2005. The panel wants to assist governing bodies, regulators and law enforcement bodies by there being a clearer statutory explanation of cheating and a re-assessment of the two-year maximum sanction under the Act. Both of which can only enhance the battle against those who put the integrity of the sports, which have given them so much and provide such joy to spectators in jeopardy. Other jurisdictions too are beginning to realise that their statutory frameworks are insufficient to tackle this growing problem. Most recently the sports minister of Australia Mark Arbib has announced that the Government is considering stiff penalties of up to 10 years in jail for anybody found guilty of being involved in match fixing and corruption in sport.11 In light of this announcement the chairman of the Australian governmental task force set up to look into what could be done to clean up sport in the county said, "Even the perception that something could be wrong is enough to undermine a sport’s public credibility”.12 This is in my opinion the crux of the reason to fight match fixing and elevate it about doping in terms of importance.

Reputational damage to any professional is a significant intangible consequence of being accused of corruption in any walk of life, and sports people are no exception. Simply being accused of match fixing, even if ultimately found not guilty, can see a sports person viewed suspiciously for the rest of their career by fellow professionals, fans and journalists, and can ultimately ruin a persons career. I believe this is a consequence which is often underestimated and overlooked. That is why it is of utmost importance that the law provides protection and redress for those who are wrongly accused of such behaviour. Defamation laws are where this protection is found. The challenge for legislators is to strike the right balance between investigating people and revealing their identity backed by sufficient evidence, and making unfounded and indeed malicious allegations. This tension is currently best highlighted in privacy cases, such as that involving former head of the FIA Max Mosley who has taken his case against the News of the World on appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights 13, and there are few high profile instances in sport in recent years where this has been an issue. However, New Zealand international cricketer Chris Cairns has sued Lalit Modi, the head of the powerful Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket competition, over comments he made alleging Cairns was a match fixer.14 

The sources and type of people engaged in arranging sports to be fixed

So who organises for match fixing to take place tempting sports people to put their careers at risk in a disciplinary, reputational and criminal sense? There appear to be various different categories of people who are engaged, ranging from criminals running illegal betting syndicates, to the players themselves. 

It is perhaps best to start by addressing the stereotypes that exist, namely that the people/criminals come from Eastern Europe, Russia and the Far East. This is not without substance as can be seen in many of the instances I have mentioned including in football, snooker and tennis. Yet is far too simplistic to say these are the principal problem areas, as we are dealing with a truly worldwide problem, with criminals and their organisations tentacles spreading far and wide across the globe. 

This leads on to a discussion on the primary source of concern for governing bodies around the world on this topic, illegal betting and gambling. Many of the problems surrounding sport gambling arise from territories and markets where gambling is banned, such as the Far East, because where there are prohibitions gambling is driven into the black market.15 Indeed Interpol has revealed that through operations in this part of the world it has made nearly 7000 arrests. Further it estimates that the volume of illegal betting and match fixing to be worth $500bn (£311bn) on the Asian market alone.16 The advent of in play betting, betting exchanges and advances in technology also provide new challenges for authorities in this area. Indeed the head of Interpol, Secretary General Ronald K. Noble, has said recently that with increased internet access, remote betting has revolutionised the gambling market in terms of reach and speed, providing opportunities for cybercrime to overlap illegal betting, creating more potential targets and more challenges for law enforcement.17 

An interesting interplay is with the legal betting industry and legal bookmakers many of whom are now household names. If there is a match fixing scandal involving betting licensed bookmakers can lose money as people stop betting and the whole industry is tarnished. Additionally Khalid Ali, the secretary general of the European Sports Security Association, which with the help of its bookmaker members monitors irregular betting patterns and insider information, says, “Most of our members are listed on stock markets, so it is also in their interests to stop bribery, corruption and match fixing.”18 Taking this a step further, legal bookmakers must make a decision on whether to pay out on suspicious matches. If they don’t then honest, valuable customers may stop betting with that firm, whilst if they do pay out then this may encourage future match fixing. So there is a trade off for bookmakers between co-operation and looking after number one.19 Playing devils advocate, some may even go as far as to say that undermining all forms of gambling is not a bad thing for society viewing it is a moral hazard, but this is very much outside the scope of this paper.

There is also a darker side emerging to the behaviour of people involved in organising match fixing. One of which I addressed earlier is threats through duress. The second has come to light only this month as part of the latest match fixing scandal to surface in Italian football. It has been alleged that in a match in November 2010 Paganese v Cremonese players had their drinks spiked in an attempt to hamper their performance, with several falling ill during the game. Now I hope that many of you reading this are as startled as I was by this revelation, to think that innocent players are being dragged into the murky world of match fixing without any knowledge or consent is in my opinion morally heinous. Furthermore, along with the usual criminal characters implicated, several well known players, including former Italian internationals, are said to have been actively complicit in organising the fixing to take place.20 

The final part of this article will look at what is being done to combat this widespread and often underplayed threat and what the future holds. 

To read the full article in pdf click here.

1.‘Examination of Threats to Integrity of Sports', Oxford Research A/S, April 2010<
2.'Integrity: Combating spot-fixing in cricket: the role of the ICC’, World Sports Law Report, Volume 9(1), Amrut Joshi, January 2011
3.'Integrity: Combating spot-fixing in cricket: the role of the ICC’, World Sports Law Report, Volume 9(1), Amrut Joshi, January 2011
4.‘Pakistan betting scandal: Divide and fall in cricket’s great pay gap’, Dalymail.co.uk, Lawrence Booth, 31 August 2010
5.'Integrity: Combating spot-fixing in cricket: the role of the ICC’, World Sports Law Report, Volume 9(1), Amrut Joshi, January 2011
6.'How worried should we be about match-fixing in football?', BBC Sport, Gordon Farquhar, 9 May 2011
7.‘Corruption: Agreeing to match fixing under duress: analysis', World Sports Law Report, Volume 8 (6), Kelly Hudson & Rod Findley, June 2010 
8.'Report of the Sports Betting Integrity Panel, Chapter 2b, February 2010
9.‘Trial date set for Pakistan trio', BBC Sport, 17 March 2011 
10,‘German court hands down stiff sentences in betting trial', Reuters, Karolos Grohmann, 14 April 2011<
11.‘Australia considers 10 years jail for match fixing’, Reuters, Nick Mulvenney, 3 June 2011
12.'Corruption in sport: Send match fixers to the slammer’, The Punch, 10 June 2011
13.‘Max Moseley - European Court of Human Rights’, Collyer Bristow, 2 June 2011
14.‘Chris Cairns sues Lalit Modi over match fixing allegations', The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 January 2010
15.‘Sports bookmakers seek safety in numbers against cheating', Bill Wilson, BBC Business News, 10 November 2010<
16.‘Fifa aware of match-fixing fears', Independent.co.uk, Robin Scott-Elliot, 11 March 2011 
17.‘Interpol chief urges increased international co-operation against rising threat of illegal sports betting', Interpol News, 1 March 2011 
18.‘Sport bookmakers seek safety in numbers against cheating', BBC Business News, Bill Wilson, 10 November 2010
19.‘Match Fixing in Tennis’, Tennisbet.com, David White, 26 June 2009
20.'Italian football rocked by fresh match fixing scandal', Guardian.co.uk, James Callow, 2 June 2011

Author

Kevin Carpenter

Kevin Carpenter

Kevin is a advisor and member of the editorial board for LawInSport, having previously acted as editor. In his day-to-day work he has two roles: as the Principal for his own consultancy business Captivate Legal & Sports Solutions, and Special Counsel for Sports Integrity at leading global sports technology and data company Genius Sports.

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