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1st April 2011
Good afternoon, friends,
In this issue of Punters' Verdict:
Corruption in the beautiful game?
If you enjoy betting in-play on the football then you'd better enjoy
it while you can - or at least enjoy the current choice of in-play
markets available to you. Things look set to change before we get
too much older.
In what looks like an admirable effort to learn something from the
problems already experienced by cricket and tennis, and BEFORE the
same problems become an issue in the upper echelons of the world's
favourite game, FIFA and UEFA are busy drafting proposals to the
betting industry with the intention of restricting in-play betting
on football matches.
Recent high profile cases in tennis and cricket have served to
underline how vulnerable sporting fixtures are to the underhand
machinations of match-fixers and criminals - mainly driven by so-
called 'spot' betting opportunities.
In-play football spot-betting markets such as 'Next Corner', 'Next
Throw-in' and 'Next goal from a penalty' are considered wide open to
individual manipulation and represent attractive and potentially
lucrative opportunities for organised criminals prepared to pay
bribes, issue threats and deliver retribution in order to get games
- and events within them - rigged for betting purposes.
It's only a question of time....
There's no suggestion that the upper levels of the European game are
affected by this growing threat - or that they have ever played host
to it. There's no reason to believe that the Premier League, Serie
A, La Liga and the like are anything other than straight leagues
where the result of every game is free of and beyond any external
But it's only a question of time. UEFA and FIFA both point to an
increase in situations where international criminals have
infiltrated the inner workings of the game and bribed both players
and match officials to behave corruptly.
While the shop-window products remain free from contamination as far
as we know, it's not quite the same story in other parts of Europe:
Six men are currently on trial in Germany accused of
manipulating football matches across Europe. They stand accused of
bribing the referee of a 2010 World Cup qualifier between
Liechtenstein and Finland.
In Finland a Singapore-based businessmen is being held on
suspicion of bribing players to fix football league matches. This
same man has also been connected to a dodgy friendly played last
September between Bahrain and what turned out to be a fake
'national' team from Togo.
National teams from Latvia, Bolivia, Estonia and Bulgaria were
invited to Turkey by a 'business agency' in February. They were
there to take part in Friendly games - in return for who knows what.
The match officials were provided by the mysterious and obviously
very thorough 'business agency'. Latvia played Bolivia. Estonia
played Bulgaria. The two matches produced 7 goals between them -
every single one of them a penalty. It didn't take long for the
bookmaking industry's 'suspicious betting pattern' software to crank
up the alarm bells as the dirty riggers tried to capitalise in the
in-play penalty markets. A Hungarian referee and 3 officials from
Bosnia have since been suspended from duty by their respective
There's so much money to be made from influencing events within a
football match that the problem isn't going to go away any time
soon. I'm betting on the problem exacerbating - unless swift action
The way it will work....
Sport, like wider society, is very much divided into the 'haves' and
the 'have not's. When bookmakers show a willingness to offer dozens
of markets on Icelandic pub league games they create a situation
where the money-hungry Icelandic small-team player, who can never
hope to make even a fraction of Stevie G's take-home pay, is exposed
The smart criminal operators recognise the potential for
exploitation - and they work on it.... with the inevitable outcome.
More and more small-league players will hop onboard the merry-go-
round - willing and well-rewarded pawns in a bigger game being
played out week after week across Europe and beyond by highly
organised and highly-motivated gangs.
Small-team players will sell their souls in steadily increasing
numbers.... seduced and corrupted by the rich and oh-so-easy
pickings on offer....
'Give away a penalty ... Work with your mates to concede corners and
throw ins... Get yourself sent off in the last 10 minutes....' While
the guy who gave you your instructions bets on surefire winners in
the in-play markets....It's a sweet little gig.... What they used to
call 'a good thing going on, baby!'....
The way games are officiated - and to what ends - would change too
as small-league referees and linesmen started to fall foul of the
same lust for brown envelopes stuffed with currency. How long
before a percentage of them are walking onto the pitch with a set of
game-changing decsions already in mind before a ball's even been
Even managers and coaches would not be immune. It may sound far-
fetched but is it inconceivable that a 'rogue' manager might put
together an entire hand-picked team of corrupt 'grafters' with
systematic and sustained rigging and malpractice - as opposed to
getting three points - set out as their primary objective when
'crossing the white line'? Football's equivalent of a racing yard
that 'likes a gamble'? Folks, if you can dream it you can do it.
In such a climate how long would it take for the malign practices to
take root and run endemic throughout the game?
Prune back the in-play selection...
'So we're going to be punished and have our in-play markets banned
because a load of criminals are betting on games when the fix is in?
Is that what you're saying, Judge?'
I can see how you might take it that way. But, for my part,
'punished' seems too strong a word given the situation....
To be honest with you I think there are too many in-play football
markets. The bookies like to invent another 30 or 40 every time
there's a game on the TV.
'We now offer 762 in-play markets on the live football!!!' Every
bookmaker seems to be deeply and passionately committed to having
the biggest number of in-play markets to brag about - no matter how
silly, how dull, how unattractive or how unnecessary half the
There's nothing so certain - the in-play football markets can stand
a little gentle pruning.
Fact is most of these markets don't attract more than £10 worth of
business in a calendar month. The volume of markets is purely for
show. Something empty and essentially meaningless for the
bookmaker's PR man to shout about whenever a microphone drifts into
The likelihood is that it's only the criminal element that really
'plays' the 'spot' markets with any full-blooded seriousness. And if
getting rid of the markets makes it harder for crooks to profit from
rigging games and encourages them out of and away from sport then
I'm all for it. I don't bet the markets and I won't miss them.
I know there will be opposing viewpoints. A good friend of mine tips
his hat to the criminals. He cheers them on. He thinks the 'spot'
markets should remain. He knows that what the crooks are doing is
wrong but he's not got a problem with it because it's the bookies
who are taking the hiding. He enjoys it whenever the bookmakers get
chinned - by fair means or foul - and he doesn't want the fun to
He's going back on the medication tomorrow....
The Judge decides....
Nobody likes seeing the bookmaker take a kicking more than I do.
There's something about the spectacle that makes my heart sing like
But when crooks are rigging football matches and profiting from the
practice in the markets it's a development that delivers nobody any
As a rule I'm broadly against regulation and bureaucracy in its many
forms and wherever I find it - particularly when it comes to betting
- but in this instance I believe regulation is necessary.
We football punters want clean games and fair markets to bet in. If
'spot' betting markets offer an incentive to rig games because they
provide an easy way to profit from the interference then the markets
no longer serve either the sport or the punter. It's time to get rid
and close down the programme - permanently.
None of us wants to be betting in markets where the outcome of what
we're betting on has been determined in advance by a handful of
corrupt participants and their paymasters.
If or when that state of affairs ever becomes acceptable to
bookmakers, punters, administrators or players then the game of
football - and punting - really will have gone to the dogs.
I'll be back with the Verdict next week.