According to the report of the European Sports Safety Association (ESSA), in 2017 266 suspicious cases were documented in the world of sports, 77% of which (45) related to football. Experts note that the total number of suspicious matches, excluding football and tennis, has increased by 15% since 2016. Sports organizations and specialized authorities have stepped up their efforts to combat this problem in connection with the FIFA World Cup championship that took place in Russia last summer. For more details, read this material by Login Casino.
Tennis has always been the most corrupt sport: according to ESSA, in the first quarter of 2017, 45% of matches had all the hallmarks of fixed games. Due to the global nature of the problem, to ensure the integrity and incorruptibility of sport, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has entered into a partnership with Sportradar, which provides statistical information and media content on 40 sports in more than 80 countries around the world.
Since 2016, Sportradar has also been the ESSA partner in the fight against rigged games in tennis. “In tandem, we will be able to create an unparalleled level of information provision, allowing the association to track corrupt activity related to bets. This would make it possible to stop the attacks on bookmakers and protect sports events,” the ESSA Chairman Mike O’Kane commented on cooperation with Sportradar.
As part of the match-fixing prevention campaign, a number of sports organizations concluded cooperation agreements with ESSA in 2018. At the end of January, law enforcement agencies in the Australian state of Victoria and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in England began to cooperate with the association.
Countering corruption in the world of sports is gaining momentum at the state level. At the end of January 2018, officials from France and the UK signed a corresponding agreement.
The football federations of many countries, such as Belarus, Thailand, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine, announced reforms and strengthening anti-corruption measures in the world of sport, including cooperation with law enforcement agencies and acceptance of anonymous complaints. It is not yet clear, what the result of this policy would be, because, according to experts, it is still extremely difficult to identify such rigged games and, most importantly, prove the guilt of its organizers and partners.
Match Fixing in Ukraine: FFU’s Actions and Omissions
As of late 2016, Ukraine occupied the leading position in the fight against sports corruption, since it revealed the largest number of matches with a fixed result in Europe. It is mainly about football competitions, and much less frequently – about hockey and basketball tournaments.
“Match-fixing is a dangerous virus for Ukrainian sports. But Ukraine is one step ahead compared with other countries, because the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) and its president, Andriy Pavelko, want to deal with this problem. Prevention is the main goal. Problems exist at all levels. Now we are investigating many cases of rigged games,” said the General Secretary of the non-profit organization FederBet Francesco Baranka, who in December 2017 became the FFU Chairman of the Ethics and Fair Play Committee.
During the last year, a number of anti-corruption measures were introduced: the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed a law introducing criminal liability for corruption in football; FFU decided to permanently suspend players from football for participation in fixed games.
“Any footballer from the age of 17 who will be convicted of participating in matches with a fixed result will be deprived for life of the opportunity to play for the national teams of Ukraine of any age. I am sure that this measure will affect the players' minds and will become an important factor in the collective struggle against the phenomenon that undermines the beautiful and beloved game from the inside,” Baranka stressed.
Moreover, the players who knew about such a match or participated in it, but did not report it, could face disqualification or termination of the contract.
As of the end of January 2018, the FFU Ethics Committee studied reports of more than 50 suspicious matches. However, according to a former member of the FFU Ethics and Fair Play Committee Artem Frankov, no investigation on the matter was completed. He believes that the match-fixing tracking system (namely tracking the bets) Baranka resorts to, is not efficient enough. According to Frankov, to make the data obtained give a result, players have to be monitored during the game. Perhaps the next FFU’s step in the fight against rigged games will be this very measure.
Match Fixing in Russia
According to the 2016 ESSA report, Russia ranked second in Europe in the number of matches with fixed results – the association recorded 9 suspicious games. In 2017, this number decreased to 2. Despite the fact that the previous year was marked by scandals concerning fixed matches in the post-Soviet space (Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) and in the world (Thailand, Malta), Russian sport in this regard was scarcely mentioned. There were only doping cases when 43 athletes were accused of Anti-Doping Rule Violation. Only 11 of them actually violated those rules, and another 28 were fully justified, however the scandals affected the participation of Russians in the Winter Olympic Games.
Nevertheless, the Russian government joined the nationwide anti-corruption campaign by fulfilling the obligations envisaged by the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions. The Russian Football Union (RFU) created a fair game department to counteract such problems as doping, match-fixing, and non-compliance with fair play principles.
“I hope that the new organization in the RFU structure in cooperation with our bookmakers will begin a truly effective work in this area. I have no doubt, that if rigged games organizers are brought to justice, then fraudsters will know that their actions may have serious consequences,” summarized Darina Denisova, President of the SRO “Association of Betting Companies”.
Moreover, in December 2017, a draft bill with amendments to the Federal Law “On State Regulation of Activities in the Organization and Conduct of Gambling and on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation” was open for public discussions. The document included definitions of what “suspicious bets on sporting events” and “unusual bets on sporting events” are.
World Cup and Soccer Match-Fixing
According to some experts, matches with fixed results pose a real threat to the main football events. Despite the widespread belief that violations of this kind occur only in low-level competitions, experts warn that it does not seem to be true. The relevant authorities are taking enhanced measures to prevent unfair play at such important tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, etc.
“Most people are mistakenly convinced that match-fixing organizers operate only in low-level tournaments and championships because they are easier to control and require less investment. Given the number of transactions at major events, a rigged game will be harder to detect,” said Gilles Mallet, Director of Sporting Integrity at La Francaise des Jeux (FDJ).
For example, at the qualifying stage of the last World Cup there was a match with a fixed result: several El Salvador national team players wanted to influence the results of the game with Canada, trying to organize a result that benefits Honduras.
Marc Tarabella, the Member of the European Parliament, urged the EU countries to coordinate their efforts to improve the regulation of this problem. In the near future, the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions will probably be adopted. Currently, three out of five countries have ratified it.
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Who Chooses Match-Fixing and Why?
According to a British sports expert Kevin Carpenter, players agree to participate in rigged games, because they are easier to manipulate compared with referees. In this case, according to the study, referees are rarely involved in a criminal conspiracy.
“There must be reasons why the players commit such crime, and rarely money is the only argument for consent. The first possible explanation is that individual athletes are easier to manipulate than, for example, regular employees,” Carpenter said. “The statistics obtained by Declan Hill shows that referees are not able to provide the result the violators need, and in fact, the involvement of club players ensures the success of match-fixing since they can influence the team and its internal culture.”
Over the past year, players, referees and sponsors of championships of different levels in different countries — Thailand, Belarus, Malaysia, etc. — have been caught in rigged games. However, these cases do not go unnoticed, and rather strict measures are taken against violators: lifelong or temporary disqualification, big fines and imprisonment. For example, in February 2018, several Belarusian football players got life suspension from the game for similar violations, and in early March, a Greek Super League football player Avraam Papadopoulos was sentenced to a 2.5 years’ imprisonment for involvement in a fixed match, which was held in 2011.
It is to be hoped that athletes of all levels and countries will consider the sad experience of their colleagues, demonstrate awareness and refuse to participate in such fraud.
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