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Athletes: Match Fixing and Illegal Betting

By Constantinos Massonos, APC Sports Consulting, Nicosia, Cyprus

Evidence of sports betting can be found as early as the beginning of competitive sports in Ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome.

Today, the growing digital infrastructure and an ever-increasing number of sports events have allowed sports betting to expand to a multi-billion US dollar industry. Any person, in any corner of the world, with access to a device connected to the Internet, can bet on the outcome of a variety of sporting events.

The outcome or result of a sporting event, ideally and in fair play terms, should only concern the athletes, coaches, team owners and also fans who are cheering for their team or favorite athlete to come out victorious from a game, fight or race.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case as people, who are often tied to the criminal world and can benefit from a particular event or result, will try to influence game participants through bribes or blackmail, in order to achieve the results they want. This process known as “match fixing” is closely related to illegal betting.

Whilst there are betting operators, who are licensed by local and international authorities, there is also a black market consisting of betting operators, who offer unlicensed betting options through their websites. This illegal betting market is considered to be double the size of the legal one and continues to grow, because it can offer better pricing, better availability of credit and a wider variety of products to their customers.

Illegal betting and match fixing cases are often very obvious, but it is usually very difficult, in practice, for authorities to prove them and proceed to legal action against the people responsible for them. Nevertheless, there are a number of cases around the world where athletes have been convicted for taking bribes or fixing a game.

In 2007, Australian jockey Chris Munce was sentenced to 30 months in jail in Hong Kong for receiving bribes from a businessman in order to provide racing tips. He was arrested earlier in 2006 by anti-corruption police in Hong Kong with US$40,000 stuffed into his pockets.

In 2010, the UK ‘News of the World’ newspaper, through hidden camera work, revealed that players from the Pakistani Cricket National Team had been spot-fixing (which is when aspects of the game, unrelated to the final result upon which betting activity exists, are fixed) in a test cricket match.  Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir, and Salman Butt were found guilty of match fixing and handed not only lengthy bans from the sport, but also jail time.

Last year, former Real Betis football players, Antonio Amaya and Xavier Torres, were handed a one-year prison sentence each for taking money to affect the result of two games of their team in the 2013/14 season. This was Spain’s first successful sports corruption prosecution.

Of course, athletes are not the only participants of a sports event that can be bribed or have an interest in fixing a game. Often referees affect the game in ways they should not, as in the case of Tim Donaghy, an NBA referee, who placed bets on games at which he was officiating and then made calls in order to win them.

Of course, all of this undermines the integrity of sport and eliminates the element of competition, apart from not being in the spirit of fairness, which should characterize the practice of sport at all levels.

Despite the continuing efforts of the sporting authorities to crack down on and eliminate match fixing and illegal betting, the temptation remains for sports persons and others to engage in these activities.

For more information on how match fixing and illegal betting can adversely affect an athlete’s career, log onto: ‘www.apc-sport.com’



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The editors of  the Journal Sports Law & Taxation are Professor Ian Blackshaw and Dr Rijkele Betten, with specialist contributions from the world's leading practitioners and academics in the sports law and taxation fields.

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