Match-fixing in Sports - Most Infamous Match Fixing Scandals

Match fixing eradicates the essential value of sport: its unpredictability.

match fixing

Match fixing eradicates the essential value of sport: its unpredictability. As such, it does not only undermine the credibility of sport and the related betting industry. It also involves organised crime and thereby constitutes a threat to society at large.

Below, I will share some of the most important facts on this subject and provide a number of examples on how to recognize match fixing.

What is match fixing exactly?

Match fixing is the act of playing to a (partially) pre-determined result or outcome of a sports match. The outcome usually opposes the most obvious predictions, thus causing the vast majority of gamblers to lose their money.

Betting on sport is big business in the UK. Thousands of pounds are wagered daily on the outcomes of various sporting events. Fixed matches go hand in hand with sports betting as the participants who decide to fix the match bet money on a particular outcome.

Is match fixing illegal?

Match fixing is illegal. The UK Fraud Act 2006 added the offence of fraud to the list of criminal offences contained within the Gambling Act 2005.

Match fixing can be closely associated with criminal activities, such as corruption, fraud and money laundering. It transcends national borders, making detection and prosecution quite challenging.

In the UK, most of the fixed matches deal with the game of football. In the US, NBA basketball and NFL football are often subject of match fixing.

Reasons for match fixing

The most common reason for match fixing is to achieve a financial gain through betting activities. Gamblers can be guaranteed a profit, while one of the clubs involved in fixing gains some form of advantage, for example avoiding relegation.

Another reason for fixing a match is to get a better starting position and getting sure odds. In the US, the term ‘tanking’ is used to describe when sports teams lose games on purpose to secure some sort of future competitive advantage. Although this type of scenario is not necessarily tied to sports betting, bettors can take advantage of teams that would benefit from losing games.

Some famous fixing scandals

Match fixing related to gambling is a problem in many sports. Team sports are the sports most commonly fixed. That’s because many things happen where you can bet on, making it harder to identify things being fixed.

Individual sports are the most susceptible when it comes to fixing. Whether it’s golf, darts or tennis, a single player can make or break the game by simply saying he lost because he was out-of-shape.

Football is one of the most fixed team sports in modern history. A famous fixing scandal, known as ‘Totonero’, was uncovered by the Guardia di Finanza in 1980. Players were selling football matches for money, and top clubs like AC Milan, Lazio and Bologna were involved.

ac milan relagated

Also the game of cricket is prone to match fixing. In 2010, the Pakistani cricket team was in England for a series of tests against the home nation. Journalists from the News of the World newspaper revealed that a bookmaker had accepted money in return for information about when two Pakistan’s bowlers would bowl ‘no balls’ in the match at Lord’s.

How to detect a fixed match?

Unusual betting odds at the bookie's office
Many punters are aware of betting odds reflecting the money that has gone onto the markets. Outcomes are priced according to demand and the likelihood of an outcome happening. A fixed match can be identified when the demand on odds on an outcome is so high that it misrepresents the market.

Scoring time
In fixed matches, goals are often scored a few minutes after the game started or towards the end of the match. In normal circumstances, goals aren’t scored at these moments, but it can be arranged so that a betting sites can benefit from that. Another example would be where a game looks like it will end in an easy win for a team, meaning the odds for a loss will be very high. But in the final minutes of the game, the other team will score several times and win the game just like that. Match fixers will benefit by putting money on the other winning team when the odds are high.

‘Influential’ referees
We all make mistakes, but sometimes the referee simply makes too many bad mistakes. For example, he often decides in favour of one of the teams, sending off players for only lightly protesting, or not giving penalties in case of serious foul play.

Bad performance of players
Just to mention a few examples:
  • A player makes such a bad mistake that it will astonish you
  • A player who is known to be fast and aggressive, suddenly isn’t anymore
  • The keeper barely tries to save an attempt at goal, letting in weak shots that are easily saveable

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