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the battle against match-fixing - can it be won?

Some damning stats in this article from BBC Sport. This is a fight FIFA are no more likely to win than the Occupy groups are to takeover the world's financial districts or someone to achieve world peace....

Report shows match-fixing rife in Southern and Eastern Europe

The true scale of match-fixing, racism and violence in European football has been revealed in new statistical research due to be released on Tuesday.

FIFPro, the worldwide union for professional footballers, conducted a survey of thousands of players in Eastern and Southern Europe.

Almost a quarter of players (23.6%) are aware of match-fixing in their league.

The stats may cause particular concern for 2018 World Cup hosts Russia, where that figure is as high as 43.5%.

The Black Book, a copy of which has been seen by the BBC, shows that 11.9% of footballers have been approached to consider fixing the result of a game, with that figure reaching 30.3% in Greece.

The research found a clear link between non-payment of player salaries and match-fixing.

As many as 41.1% of players have not had their salary paid on time, of which more than half were approached to consider fixing a match.

Are we really surprised by these figures?
Think about it:
- dodgy local justice system
- widespread acceptance of bribes and corruption in society
- clubs often living beyond their means and not paying players on time
- games often aren't widely screened and thus not subject to major scrutiny
- poor economic climate leads to players being tempted by quick gains, no matter how immoral (could be the case almost anywhere at present)
- jealousy of low-paid players earning far less than people betting on the match
- plus all the 'regular' dressing room issues which could play a part

So why would a fixer target games in places like these rather than the high-profile leagues? Ethics of the participants is one key factor but the biggest ones will be cost and risk. Why do huge global companies have their goods made in places like Bangladesh or China? It's cheaper and less hassle. Why pay £5m to bribe a top-tier team when you could do it for 50k in eastern Europe? Via the unregulated betting markets in Asia, you could get on for six figures with relative ease on the lesser match and the likelihood of follow-up investigations is low if you can keep the players/ref quiet. If you deal with someone as stupid as Mervyn Westfield, then you'll be exposed very quickly. If you tried that in the UK, it would set off so many alarms, very quickly the papers, the world of Twitter, the police, Crown Prosecution Service and thousands of cynical fans would be on their case demanding blood. And public disgust at a mere rumour of match-fixing would taint a participant's CV for many years to come. To buy a player's soul to fix a high-profile match would cost a huge sum, then multiply that out for as many players as required. The risk is far too high even if the profit margin could be as lucrative as the lower level game. Plus if you did somehow manage to pull it off, you would find it very tough to be able to do it again and again - unlike the low-grade game, there are thousands of those around the world every month.

Betting is a global business. The weak points of the chain are where naïve governments think banning the pastime is for the greater good of the people. This means everything is swept under the carpet, no proper system of regulation and probity exist, and bookmakers don't pay into the public revenue. It's not prohibition in the 30s (which flopped anyway). The world is a small place these days, money can change 'hands' in an instant and there are plenty of shady folk happy to deal in sport-fixing rather than drug trafficking. After all, as the SSN report a few months back shared - the penalties for fixing matches are unlikely to be more than a couple of years in jail in most countries, while many still execute convicted drug traffickers....

Until tax-dodging chairmen and fly-by-night businessmen are removed from the game worldwide, and players paid serious money to reflect the worth of the game worldwide, there's no chance this will ever be eradicated. Governments dig their heads in the sand about the benefits of regulating gambling. Societies accept endemic corruption. Players get abused by shady agents trafficking them out of slums of Africa and then dumping them in Europe with no cash and broken dreams. Contrast all this against the backdrop of obvious FIFA corruption for huge money, TV contracts worth more than the GDP of a swag of nations and professional players living the celebrity lifestyle with, in many cases, marginal talent!

Football is so big, so global, so integrated in society from top to bottom, across all religions and cultures, that this problem is not going to go away.


  1. Wonder if there are any stats for the likes of the Argentinian leagues and their SA neighbours ? Cheating bar stewards the lot of 'em.

    Changing the subject slightly would you mind adding my site back to your blogroll. It used to appear there in the past but I got slack and stopped posting for a while so you binned me. I'm back with something that actually might be interesting if I can get the wheels to spin. Thanks in advance,


  2. Reinstated only if you promise to keep it updated! :)

    Re South American football - there's no historical betting culture down there, but that's not to say there's no history of match-fixing. Often it's more to do with promotion & relegation.


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