Betting in UK Sport - Match fixing and the fixing of results

Match fixing

What is meant by match fixing?

Match fixing is a practice surrounding a variety of sports and is much more common than it is often given credit for. It involves the participants of a sporting context to try and fix the result of the sporting context to ensure that a particular outcome occurs.

Why would the participants try to fix the outcome of a sporting contest?

Betting on sport is a huge industry within the UK with thousands of pounds being spent daily up and down the country betting on outcomes of various sporting contexts. Match fixing goes hand in hand with sports betting as the participants who have decided to fix the match will have bet money on a particular outcome happening as will a variety of other people close to them. There are huge amounts of money to be made by corrupt organisations from the fixing of sporting contests.

Match Fixing in the Professional sports arena

Many feel that fixing the outcome of a sporting contest is a practice which is left to the amateur sporting arena, for example it is a practice that many people associate with amateur and illegal boxing matches. It is, however, not something which is limited to this arena and is a practice which has been creeping into high profile professional sports worldwide such as football and cricket.

What can be done to stop match fixing?

Rules set by the Governing body

Match fixing and other forms of corruption within a specific sport are seen as issues which will often be solved internally by that particular sport with appropriate rules and penalties set down by the various governing bodies of that sport.

For example looking at the sport of football in England, the Football Association deals with the problem of match fixing by laying down the following rule:

  • Players are prohibited from staking money on any match or competition in which they are participating or on which they have direct or indirect influence

A match in which they will have a direct influence would be a match in which they are participating and a match in which they would have indirect influence would not be one in which they were directly playing but one of the same league or division.

Accordingly it is not just fixing matches that professional footballers are banned from; they are also prohibited from betting on any football match.

This is designed to protect the integrity of the sport.

The Level Playing Field

One of the fundamental aspects of the sporting competition is that the so called level playing field is maintained. If this is lost then the entire nature of the sporting context is lost.

Accordingly offences of match fixing which take away this level playing field are seen as important a problem as that of doping and illegal drug use in the sporting context.

Penalties for Match Fixing

  • As the offence of match fixing is one which is dealt with internally by the sport it will be the sporting national governing body which will hand down the penalties for the offence.
  • In a recent 2009 case involving players betting on the outcome of a Football League match four players were found to have bet on the outcome, three from one side and one from the opposition. The Football Association found irregular patterns concerning the betting around this game and the four players were each handed a ban from professional football and a ban.
  • The bans ranged from 5 months to a year and the fines ranged from £2,000 to £5,500.
  • In 2006 four Italian football clubs were implicated in a match fixing scandal which saw one club relegated and three others deducted points.

Do the book makers have a role to play in the policing of match fixing?

Under the Gambling Act 2005 all bookmakers are required to share information with sporting governing bodies and to alert them to suspicious betting activities surrounding sporting contests. This condition is viewed as a crucial tool in preventing and detecting betting-related fraud.

Potential problem under the Gambling Act

Many online bookmakers since the inception of the Gambling Act have moved their business to the off-shore haven Gibraltar whereby they will be able to continue their operation outside the scope of the tax and anti-corruption laws of England and Wales. As a consequence of this they will not have to adhere to the above requirement under the Gambling Act.

This concern has lead the national governing bodies of Football and Cricket to seek urgent meetings with the UK Government Sports Minister as this could significantly increase the potential for match fixing in UK Sport.

Is match fixing illegal under UK Law?

The Fraud Act 2006 adds the offence of fraud to the list of criminal offences contained within the Gambling Act 2005.

This provision will often be used to prosecute individuals involved in match fixing who are outside the scope of prosecution by the sporting governing bodies. This would include corrupt groups which run betting syndicates relying on the fixing of matches to make money.

UK anti-corruption law is designed specifically with these individuals in mind.

Have there been any recent criminal cases involving match fixing?

As recent as December 2009 there has been a huge match fixing scandal across Europe which is said to have involved more than 200 matches played throughout Europe and in European competition. The enquiry was run by the German police with the full backing of the European Governing Body of Football – UEFA. The investigation lead to 50 raids throughout Europe including the UK ending up in seizures of property and money.

The target in this case was a 200 strong criminal gang who bribed players, coaches, referees and officials.