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Fixing 'epidemic' in the UK

The media are abuzz today with the weekend allegations of spot-fixing in the lower leagues, as captured on a hidden camera by the Sun on Sunday. I've been interviewed three times so far, with at least one more to come. You can discount the ITV News (nationwide version) of having any credibility, they edited my responses completely out of context and the bloke before me from some Business Centre had zero idea on the topic! Sky Sports News interview came across well - it was live, I know what I said!

Let me start my tirade with a disclaimer - based on the evidence presented SO FAR by the Sun on Sunday, I believe the Sam Sodje story is more likely to be fiction than fact. This view could completely change if more evidence is released to establish a clear link to betting. Right now, it makes little sense.

Sam Sodje is a dictionary definition of the term 'journeyman', having played for 11 different clubs, and only just over 100 games in the past seven years. His career has petered out, now he needs to find another form of income. He was caught on camera boasting that he made £70k for getting sent off in the Oldham-Portsmouth clash on February 23rd this year, and that he could control players to get red or yellow cards right through to the top of the football pyramid.

I'm calling bullshit on this one. Let's examine the circumstances of that match:

Oldham started 4/7 favourite and scored early via Jose Baxter. Sodje was sent off for punching the former Everton starlet in the groin early in the second half. Why? Oldham would have been around 1/8 at this stage, so there was no advantage for the 'fixer' to achieve in the adjusted odds after the red card. The incident was up the field near one of the sidelines, and Sodje tried to conceal the punch. Surely, if there is any benefit to be had for the Mr Big, it would be if the player strikes out inside the penalty box, with no attempt to conceal it? Penalty for a certain goal, one less player, major change in odds, and with a key defender sent off, potentially more scope for goals. There are two main markets in Asian football betting - match results (including handicaps) and total goals. Anything else is irrelevant and/or only available to win trivial amounts.

Sodje says he will pay a player £30k for a yellow card and £50k for a red. Why? Firstly, the relative values are way out of line. For betting purposes (and remember, this is the only point of these fixes), a red card is worth at least three times more than a yellow. The caution card is only of any use as the 'signal' that today's fix is on. On its own it is worthless. Yes you can bet on number of cards and bookings with licensed bookies - good luck getting five £100 bets on a League 1 match or lower - bookmakers are not registered charities, they have incredibly intelligent risk management systems which flag suspicious betting activity. Bookies are in business to win money, not lose to shrewd punters or fraudsters.

Next - who is putting up the money and how are they going to profit from it? A player gets sent off when his team is 1-0 down, the fav is now 1/12 and no more goals are scored? There is a small chance the fix could be on the unders, but if it was, getting the CB sent off would be incredibly risky, and he'd have to have paid off both teams to ensure they weren't in a scoring mood. If Sodje had been on the home team and his exit led to the outsider having a much better chance of coming back to win, there would be some merit in it. But there's not.

My call on this one is that Sodje has found what he thought was a sucker - a naïve attempted match-fixer (someone trying to emulate Dan Tan and Wilson Raj Perumal without knowing the mechanics of it) who should a willingness, in the unrecorded calls to set up the meeting, to pay whatever Sodje could set up for him. He drafted in some more players, including Oldham winger Christian Montano who conveniently apologised for not getting a yellow card recently, to make it sound organised. In betting, you have a method called 'backfitting' - when you create a betting system based on old results, tinkering with your variables until it works, but going forward it never does. I think Sodje has backfitted his sending off against Oldham to make it suit his story. If there was any evidence of that event being pre-arranged, we'd have heard about it by now...

There may be more to it, and I don't know the story behind the DJ Campbell arrest, but either way, Sodje has been a dill and will face the wrath of the FA. His career's over anyway, but some of the others at least had a bit left of theirs.

The papers and TV stations love a sensationalised, overblown story. I'm sure the staff at the Sun weren't happy about the Telegraph stealing their thunder a few weeks back with the Delroy Facey sting with Conference teams. But a story that makes some sense would have helped their cause....

Comments

  1. The people supposedly fixing these things are from the far-east, or supposedly from the far-east, where I'm assuming betting is not regulated as strictly as it is over here (the bookies here are top notch when it comes to big bets on things)

    I dont want to believe its happening, but I also think its a touch naive to believe it doesnt go on. Theres always people with unscrupulous morals who will want to make a quick buck. As you said, his career is over anyway, he nay as well make a quick 70k for not much work

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    Replies
    1. Adam - 100% not saying that fixing doesn't exist, the recent stories about the Essex Conference sides are completely genuine, as are plenty of others abroad - just the facts in this story don't add up. Sodje might still be doing bad things - but this story on camera is utter shit, he's found a sucker who he thought might pay him a truckload of cash for useless things. You can't bet on cards for anything substantial, anywhere. Crooks bet into the unregulated Asian markets - just as you or I can. But you won't be betting on anything other than results (incl handicaps) and totals if you want to win thousands.

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