PtG Article 03.10.2011

Warning: “Anyone Can Fix”

Match fixing is going through the same transition as popular music sales went through in the 1990s when it went online, author Declan Hill told delegates at the 2011 Play the Game conference. Asian sport is already much destroyed, he claimed, and if allowed to continue unabated, match fixing “will destroy modern sport” across the world.

With the advent of the live internet sport and unlicensed bookmakers, Hill said, "anyone" can make money through fixing a match.

“We are talking about a change in the culture of being a sportsman. An obligation to 'try your best' is not now always required," he said.

According to Hill, match fixing has increased over the past five years with international gangs visiting football venues throughout Europe looking for corruptible players or officials.

Hill, who is the bestselling author of a 2008 book on match fixing entitled “The Fix”, stated that he was aware of 24 current police investigations into match fixing. These include a highly-publicised case of a foreign match fixing gang operating in Finland, and ongoing allegations of match fixing in Turkey. The latter case has already led to over 30 arrests and the Istanbul club Fenerbahce being kicked out of the UEFA Champions League.

The fact that sport is “full of conflicts of interest” makes the task of cleaning it up highly problematic, Hill said.

He applauded the fact that UEFA has proposed to appoint “integrity officers” in nations throughout Europe, but how do you guarantee the integrity of the integrity officers, he asked.

The fact that online bets can be placed on almost any sporting match, means that  “anyone can fix”, Hill concluded. And if the problem is to be addressed, an independent international anti-corruption agency is urgently needed.

15,000 illegal betting sites in Europe

Andre Noel Chaker, Director of the Finnish National Lottery and a representative of the World Lottery Association, agreed with Hill about the importance of the internet to the rise of match fixing.

Match fixing is “bigger than ever”, and the growth of the phenomena is due not least to  the ability of viewers to watch thousands of sports matches over the internet, he said.

Sport’s corporate and financial governance has an “inherent weakness” that criminals are eager to exploit, he added.  The presence of 15,000 illegal betting sites in Europe alone provides an indication of the size of problem.