This week we have seen the sting by the Telegraph which, on the face of it, looks to be a tremendous piece of investigative work into fixing in English football. But the headlines around it are over-sensationalised yet again. Delroy Facey, a former player turned agent could never be described as a Premier League star, or for any of his clubs for that matter - he played 10 games for Bolton, scoring a single goal. He played professional football for 14 different clubs! He might have managed a few games at the highest level but that's equivalent to calling me a star of Sky Sports News - I've been on twice for short interviews.
Some more of the blatant falsehoods perpetuated in the media this week:
"More than £1 million was staked on a game between Welling and Billericay Town — a bigger market than a Champions League match involving Barcelona being played on the same night."
Bullshit. Welling United defeated Billericay Town 5-2 on November 27, 2012. The home side were already strong favourites and it looks highly likely that the home team knew nothing of the fix - the example shows the Bet365 price crashing from 1.57 into 1.33, almost certainly from the sheep following the Asian market being crunched.
Barcelona played in the Champions League on November 20, away to Spartak Moscow, and on December 5, at home to Benfica. Not on November 27, and not in the Copa del Rey that night either. Basic facts that are incredibly easy to check these days. The reverse fixture was no less inaccurate.
Money is made betting on no-balls/minor incidents
This stems from the News of the World sting on the Pakistan cricketers a few years ago. The blatant no-ball from Mohammed Amir did not make anyone any money with any bookmaker or betting exchange in the world. What it did do was signal to the fixer that the players had accepted the 'offer' and would do what was agreed. A simpler signal such as scratching his left nad or pulling out a hankerchief could easily be missed by the camera or the fixer who turned away for three seconds - a no-ball goes onto the match record, as does a yellow card in the first 10 minutes.
Betting exchanges are the only conduit for fraud, betting in Asia is different to betting elsewhere...
"One player would “take” a yellow card in the first 10 minutes to prove to the fixers that the team was “on”. The player would be paid £5,000 for the yellow and, at that point, hundreds of thousands of pounds would flood on to international betting exchanges."
Despite what Betdaq, Ladbrokes or any of the 50+ exchanges that have come and gone in the past 15 years might tell you, there is only one betting exchange that matters - Betfair, and this wasn't the platform for the majority of these transactions. Initially the faulty phrases used were 'Asian betting exchanges' or even 'Asian betting exchange syndicates' - thankfully, they've since been corrected in most cases.
"Betting in Asia is more varied than traditional win-lose. Gamblers are able to bet on various outcomes. Hundreds of thousands of pounds can be placed on the number of goals to be scored over the course of a match, or a half, with the odds fluctuating throughout the game."
Wow, that's amazing. You can bet during a match, or on the number of goals in that match, or even a half! Has the author ever watched a football match on commercial television in the last five years? Ad after ad spruiking odds for next goal, correct score, number of goals..... Major UK bookies will offer up to 120 in-play markets simultaneously on a football match. Even the lower grade ones regularly see 40+ markets offered - they are driven by algorithms based on the match odds prices, goal supremacy, expected goals and the time remaining. The mission for licensed bookmakers here is simple - there WILL be fixed matches amongst the vast number of events they cover. Offer a wide and diverse range of events and markets, spread the risk far and wide (never deep) and be quick to react to heavy action on one selection - it will either mean a mistake in the trading bot, or a suspicious match.
People (possibly, but certainly not exclusively Asian) are betting on football in-play around the world. What you can bet on via Asia are low-margin editions of markets available anywhere, and with bookmakers, agents and brokers, who are far less restrictive than licensed bookmakers. Asian Handicaps cut traditional 110% overround three-way markets down to 102-103% two-way markets, by removing the draw option and including a goal line where necessary. In the Welling-Billericay game quoted earlier, the Asian Handicap was Welling -1.5 goals, meaning that if betting on Welling to win this market, they had to win the match by at least two goals. Handicap markets are usually set to bring the prices much closer together (stems from black market days where the odds were assumed, the agent could walk around with a piece of paper declaring the handicap lines but not be prosecuted for possessing or distributing such information).
Total goal lines are often the preferred format of fix for these criminal syndicates. Fans are less likely to cry foul if their team aren't deliberately trying to lose, just having a 'momentary lapse of concentration' which concedes a goal, but then they turn around and work extra hard to get that goal back. 1-0 victories are tough to fix. The goalie (who hasn't been included in the fix) might have a blinder, the strikers might have a day where they couldn't hit the side of a barn from 10 feet, the ref might be card/penalty happy... 'Encourage' a team to be more attacking, take a few risks - the fans will be more entertained and more inclined to overlook a single mistake which costs them the match.
'Any match that trades over £1m should be investigated'
A pearler from some muppet yesterday on Sky Sports' Sunday Supplement. Wrong on so many levels. Let's start with every English Premier League match and most major televised games fit into this criteria. What a waste of time and complete lack of understanding from the 'pundit'/celebrity head who once played a few decent games and thus will milk that career until the end of time.
Where is this information expected to come from? Betfair I assume, just one of several hundred worldwide betting agencies offering wagering on football matches. How many others make their turnover or matched volume publicly available? Sweet FA. Other exchanges prefer to avoid it as their matched volume often pales in comparison, plus not all of them agree on how to count matched volume - Betfair do it the simple way, double the backer's stake (over-inflates traded volume on very short prices), whereas others follow a traditional betting approach and count the risk for both sides (flatters them on very open events like a golf tournament or the Grand National). Bookmakers will not publicly make available their turnover data - why would/should they? Bookmakers manage risk. If there is one thing they are sharp on, it is flagging suspicious activity which might hurt their bottom line.
This pundit opinion is completely ignorant of the real problem - the vast majority of money behind the fixes passes through unregulated bookmakers, where they'll offer no help to Interpol, SportRadar or any investigative body. If anything flows onto Betfair or licensed firms, it's almost certainly from the sheep who are following the money trail and trying to lock in a profit by taking advantage of any firms which are slow to move their prices.
Matchbook are a serious player in football betting
The allegations last week that two Premier League matches since 2000 had been fixed were made by a firm who are desperate for UK customers. The only way they can be classed as a 'leading exchange' is the simple fact they still exist. Dozens have tried the concept, very few have survived. To imply they actually have a noticeable market share though is just embarrassing.
The allegation is as vague as they could possibly make it 'since 2000' - they weren't even around that long ago, just two unidentified matches in around 4500 fixtures, and partly based on 'highly-suspicious performance from at least one of the players on the pitch'. Just one player could go into this sample? Sheesh. So a hangover, depression, stress from personal issues, playing unfit and a multitude of many other reasons could be tagged as highly suspicious? Utter tripe. Thankfully most press outlets and the Premier League itself have chosen not to name the firm in their articles and give them the free publicity they crave. Sounds about as legitimate as someone in the French press claiming Arsenal's famous collapse against Newcastle, drawing 4-4 after leading 4-0 at the orange break, was bent. Mouth opening without the brain being in gear...
Will it ever end? Match-fixing will never be eradicated so why would the errors in reporting it ever be cleared up? The media only keep cutting costs meaning the
Oh, and don't get me started about Sky Sports News repeatedly using 'Sky Sources' as their source of information when everything was printed in the Daily Telegraph the night before!! Acknowledge your peers, that's pathetic.