Match Fixing – It’s life Jim, but not as we know it

Apparently, according to the internet (which is never wrong), the Star Trek quote is a misquote. Interesting as that may be, that is not really what I want to talk about this week.

Mohammad Amir - Photo by Junaidro - CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Mohammad Amir – Photo by JunaidroCC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

I was in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago and caught a cab. Australia were playing India in the Cricket and the cabbie was an Australian of Indian heritage so I asked him if he knew the score. Probably racial profiling on my part but usually a safe bet (excuse the pun). The cabbie said he grew up loving the Indian Cricket team but couldn’t stand to watch games anymore because of the match fixing that was rife on the sub-continent. I remember a similar thing happening after Superleague in the 90s for Rugby League. Fans losing interest in the game in droves. With the Chris Cairns trial recently ending, the return of Mohammad Amir for Pakistan (having served a 5 year ban for match fixing) and the recent allegations which have emerged in Tennis, it got me thinking about match fixing in general and the following questions, none of which can be adequately answered. I will try none-the-less.

How widespread is match fixing?

This article by the Clearinghouse for Sport is a great summary of the issues which are primarily as follows:

  • The emergence of interactive online gambling and the placing of exotic bets which has unsurprisingly coincided with a massive increase in gambling in Australia. For instance, the sports wagering market, both globally and domestically, has burgeoned over the past decade, with thousands of online bookmakers now offering betting markets on a vast and increasing array of sports. Australians are among the most prolific gamblers in the world with total sports betting expenditure in 2013-14 estimated at AUD4.6 billion, and online betting AUD2.75 billion. Annual betting turnover in Australia on the AFL is estimated to be around AUD1.3 billion, and the NRL AUD1.1 billion. [Source: National Integrity of Sport Unit submission to the Impact of Illegal Offshore Wagering Review].
  • Sport has increasingly become a target for criminal activity including betting scams, match fixing, manipulating in-game outcomes and illegal profits being linked to money laundering activities.
  • Gambling vulnerability of younger athletes.

Given the money involved and the difficulty in detecting and prosecuting match fixing, I’m thinking match fixing is widespread. I have nothing to back this up.

If we knew the true extent of match fixing would it end sport as we know it?

Yes.

I’m not saying that it would completely obliterate sport into oblivion. Wrestling (the rock and roll kind, not the Greco-Roman kind) has taught me that knowing an outcome is fixed doesn’t necessarily result in a sport disappearing. I think WWF has also taught us that if the outcome is pre-determined, the event becomes entertainment rather than sport. Big Brother meets The Amazing Race or something like that.

I’m going to put a massive caveat on this. Much the same as the apparent widespread use of PEDs in Australian sport, we will have to find out the true extent of match fixing before it has any repercussions for a sport. I mean actually find out. The Blackest Day in Sport turned out to be limited to Stephen Dank running programmes in Cronulla and Essendon and has turned into an argument about the comparative handling of the matter by the AFL and the NRL rather than Australians turning off their TV sets wholesale. Ironically, the ASADA affair had the opposite affect on both codes. This may have been different if it turned out the majority of players in both codes were juiced or at least 3 or 4 of the highest profile players in each code (the Lance Armstrong effect or the needle that broke the camel’s back).

Match fixing is a bit like the boogie man. We don’t know if he is real yet or at least we don’t know if he lives in Australia.

Can it be stopped and if so, how?

No.

Given match fixing is inextricably linked with organised crime, it is difficult to see how a sport is going to stop match fixing full stop. Probably the best case scenario is for detection of match fixing to occur from time to time with only low level players involved. In this scenario, the reputation of the sport involved will be largely unsullied. Perhaps we will always remain ignorant of the majority of fixed results. One thing I do know is that each sport will need to treat the risk of match fixing very seriously and if they don’t invest heavily in preventative measures they face the ruination of their sport.

Maybe my glass is only half empty today.

What is sweeter than Jelly Bread?

  • Brian Canavan to the Titans. First good news story they have received in some time.
  • GSW. Still rolling. Smack down of the Spurs was unbelievable. Running out of words to describe them.

EPL Tips Match Week 24

Arsenal vs Southampton – Arsenal 2-0

Leicester vs Liverpool – Leicester 2-1

Norwich vs Tottenham – Tottenham 2-1

Sunderland vs Man City – Man City 4-0

West Ham vs Aston Villa – West Ham 2-0

Crystal Palace vs Bournemouth – Crystal Palace 2-1

Man U vs Stoke – Man U 2-0

West Brom vs Swansea – Draw 1-1

Everton vs Newcastle – Everton 2-0

Watford vs Chelsea – Chelsea 2-1

BTW I’m going head to head with Lawro (Mark Lawrenson of the BBC) again this year. He has gone and changed his scoring system (a correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth TEN points and picking an exact score FORTY points).

Week 23

Me – 70 (4 from 10 with 1 perfect score) and Lawro – 20 (2 from 10 with no perfect scores)

Season so far

Me – 1670 and Lawro – 1690 (Creeping up on Lawro by being only slightly less rubbish)

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Thursday, 4 February 2016 titled ‘Return of the Mack, the last hurrah for Brendon McCullum’

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