Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Declan Hill on FIFA and Match Fixing

Have a look at the highlights of the Serie B game above, from December 2010 and which ended in a 3-3 draw.  Notice anything unusual (aside from the strangely empty grounds)?  It looks like a normal soccer game, right?

Now consider this analysis of wagers made in advance of the game:
Italy's Serie B is famed for its end of season draws but it is rare to see the draw trade at such a low price as in tonight's AlbinoLeffe vs Piacenza game. The best odds avalable about a draw tonight are 4/9 (bet £90 to make £40 profit) with William Hill, when the draw would normally be expected to trade at somewhere between 15/8 and 9/4 in a game of this type.

What is even more amazing is that more than three million US dollars has been traded on the game on Betfair at 4pm UK time today, a huge volume for such a low profile game. In fact, to illustrate how big a market it has become, only 2.7 millon US dollars has been traded on tonight's Manchester City vs Everton game in the Premiership. Of the $3.1 million traded so far, $2.99 million has been on the draw.
A fixed match?

At his blog, Declan Hill, author of The Fix, gives an unvarnished perspective on FIFA's current efforts on match fixing:
Let’s focus on FIFA. Ever since their controversial non-election this spring, they have been banging a drum about match-fixing.

So what is FIFA actually doing about the problem? In my opinion, at this moment, they are running a public relations campaign. They are not running an effective investigation against match-fixing. Repeat. I believe, at this moment, they are not running credible investigations. I hope in the future they will prove me wrong, but at this moment I think there is not a credible investigation going on.

Why not? Well first of all, FIFA has a massive credibility problem when it comes to corruption. There are not many disinterested people in the world who will believe that a current FIFA investigation would root out all match-fixing if it were found to be linked to a high-level sports official. Because of this perception, few players and referees will trust FIFA officials to give them the necessary information. Second, neither FIFA nor Interpol (which has been linked to FIFA) has the jurisdiction to investigate or make arrests. To stop these problems, they need to link to a credible national police force.

What FIFA is doing is having their head of security Chris Eaton fly around the world where he gives press conferences and media interviews. To be fair to Mr. Eaton, he has considerable manly charm. He looks exactly like the guy you want at your back during a bar fight in the Australian outback. You can understand why some of the tame sports journalists are so besotted that they forget their professional duty and do not ask any difficult questions. Mr. Eaton is also saying all the right things to the press. He has pointed out that there are fixing gangs that go around the world trying to corrupt matches in dozens of different countries. He has pointed out that many international friendly matches have been corrupted. He has pointed out that match-fixing gangs often import groups of players from Africa or the former Soviet sphere to win/lose matches on command in small leagues.

This is all true, and kudos for Mr. Eaton for saying what I revealed three years ago in ‘The Fix’. However, it is not an investigation. Credible investigations feature a careful collection of evidence. Credible investigations feature international arrest warrants and actual arrests. Credible investigations are linked with an appropriate, well-resourced national police force who will press the investigation to their natural conclusion even if top-level sports officials are also involved in the corruption.
Hill promises a series of posts on what he thinks ought to be done.


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