PtG Article 29.10.2013

Declan Hill’s bullshit detector

Certain phrases in the English language mean the exact opposite of their dictionary definition, Canadian match-fixing exposer Declan Hill told the Play the Game Conference on October 29.

These include such terms as “centre of excellence”, and “world class”.

In the area of match-fixing, Hill said, such “red flags of bullshit” can be a handy tool to gauge the sincerity of the person making the statement. Phrases like “I don’t see many fixes on the gambling market” and “the problem is illegal betting” imply that the speaker is content to ignore the problem, he said.

The assertion that match-fixing is usually carried out by young, impressionable players also registered highly on Hill’s faecal radar. Successful fixes are those that go undetected by the betting industry, he pointed out, so a lack of abnormal betting patterns does not mean that a fix has not occurred.

A bet’s legality in a particular jurisdiction is irrelevant, he pointed out, as certain bets are legal in some nations and illegal in others.

“Fixing has nothing to do with illegal betting,” Hill said. “We need to focus on the fixing market”.

“An argument that you will hear from football officials is that most players involved in fixing are young and impressionable,” he said. “This is just not true. Young people are the last people that fix. Often the younger players are left out of the fixing process”.

In his speech, Hill detailed a global match-fixing network allegedly controlled by Dan Tan, an Asian businessman who was arrested by Singapore police in September 2013.

While Tan’s was not the only match-fixing network in existence, he said, it had likely contributed to the corruption of football in numerous nations across the world. Turkish football is now so corrupt, Hill said, that it was a “dead man walking”.

Generally, he said, the players that succumb to temptation are those who have financial problems – those who are owed money from their clubs, have no medical benefits, or are nearing the end of their career. These players’ bottom line is their financial situation, he said.

“You don’t get these guys [to refuse to fix] by appealing to their ethics,” Hill said. “When Dan Tan says that he will pay you he actually will – which is more than can be said for many football officials”.

Following Tan’s arrest, Interpol General Secretary Ronald Noble said that “no person should doubt Singapore's commitment to fighting match-fixing”.

However, Hill told Play the Game that he was “utterly skeptical” of Singapore government officials’ claims that they were unaware of Tan’s activities before his arrest. Hill concluded by recommending that Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand be threatened with a total ban from international sport unless they take action against the fixers and those who are sponsoring them.