2012 was predicted to be the year when match-fixing, particularly that related to sports betting, became the principal issue of sporting integrity worldwide with London hosting the Olympic Games. As it transpired there was only one such scandal at the 2012 Games and it was not related to betting. Yet the Olympics did provide the actors in the fight against match-fixing with many invaluable lessons.
Developments in the field of match-fixing during 2012 came instead from outside of the Olympics with the progression and revelation of numerous instances of match-fixing and the advancement of new public and private policies to detect, deter and educate. This article will examine issues ranging from the increasing use of polygraph (lie-detector) tests and the role of national and international bodies, to the sports that have been knee-deep in the match-fixing mire during 2012 and whether the current approach to sanctioning is proportionate.
Sports affected during 2012
As ever, being the most popular sport worldwide, football accounted for a large proportion of match-fixing activity in 2012.
Changes at the top of FIFA, with Ralph Mutschke taking over from Chris Eaton as Director of Security, allowed Eaton to reveal some uncomfortable allegations upon taking over as Director of Sport Integrity at the newly formed International Centre for Sport Security (‘ICSS’) based in Doha (to which I will return later). The principal of which was a claim that the 2010 World Cup match between Nigeria v Greece was under investigation for match-fixing.1 Nigeria having previous being part of the fixed friendly match with Argentina back in June 2011. FIFA went on the defensive, as is all too often the case with sports governing bodies (SGBs), saying no World Cup matches have ever been tainted. One may question why Eaton would conjure up such an allegation?
The ‘Asiagate’ scandal rumbled on with the Zimbabwe national team being disbanded as the match-fixing scandal stemming from an Asian tour the team took back in 2009 undermined the entire sport in the country. This culminated in Zimbabwe Football Association President Cuthbert Dube questioning the integrity of the team in its most recent match, having let a 3-1 lead slip to miss out on qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations, and disbanding the team soon after. This suspicion may have stemmed from the players having told an ethics committee investigation that during the infamous 2009 tour representatives from betting syndicates were present in the changing room at half time dictating to them how the game should unfold!2
Again in Africa, match-fixing allegations have arisen in relation to the South African national team regarding friendlies played in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup held in the country. It is not the team that is under suspicion but the high ranking members of the South African Football Association (‘SAFA’), who appear to have been duped by the prolific match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal.3 He is infamous for manipulating referees through friendlies his companies organised and profiting from the vast sums made by Far East gambling syndicates as a result. He was caught in the act back in 2011, imprisoned in Finland for a year, and is currently in protective custody in Hungary.
This spate of developments in Africa no doubt led FIFA, in co-operation with INTERPOL (the world’s largest international police organisation), to hold an ‘Integrity in Sport’ workshop in Johannesburg in August which was attended by eight African associations, including Zimbabwe.4 This quote from the President of the Football Association of Swaziland perhaps sums up perfectly the lack of knowledge and naivety of SGBs and the challenges facing them, “We certainly had no idea of the depth of the potential dangers and how vigilant we must be.”
In Malta, a small EU territory that has adopted an extremely friendly regime to online betting companies, both their domestic league and national team have been subject to the ills of match-fixing. The main protagonist, and some say scapegoat, has been player Kevin Sammut. Mr Sammut was initially banned from football for a 10 year period for breaching UEFA’s principles of integrity and sportsmanship following the conclusion of investigations by a UEFA Control and Disciplinary body into match-fixing allegations in the Euro 2008 qualifier between Norway and Malta, where Norway scored 3 goals in the last 18 minutes for a 4-0 victory. The case came to light during the infamous Bochum trial in May 2011, the most wide ranging and notable match-fixing case ever to come before a court, after Croatian fraudster Mario Cvrtak, a close ally of Ante Sapina who headed a notorious betting syndicate, testified during the trial that he had met with at least three Maltese national players to rig the aforementioned match.5 Both the player and the UEFA Disciplinary Inspector appealed the decade ban. The UEFA Appeals Body then extended the ban to life. I will discuss the appropriateness of such a sanction in greater depth later.
Italy, a nation somewhat notorious in this area, was the subject of yet another tranche of allegations and prosecutions in 2012. The highest profile actor caught in the crossfire on this occasion was current Italian league champions Juventus, who have a chequered history as regards match-fixing, with their manager Antonio Conte being served a four month ban (reduced from 10 months upon appeal) for failing to report allegations of match-fixing during his tenure at Siena.6 There were also the extreme actions of Verona striker Emanuele Pesoli who held a four day hunger strike whilst chaining himself to the Italian football headquarters following a three year match-fixing ban being imposed upon him.7 Perhaps of greatest concern was player Simone Bentivoglio describing an “atmosphere of complete terror” in Italian football having accepted a plea bargain for charges brought against him.8
The last, but by no means least, major match-fixing issue to affect the football world in 2012 was the conclusion of the travails in Turkey. At the beginning of the year a previous chairman of the Turkish Football Federation (‘TFF’) and two deputies resigned over the TFF’s failure to agree on the sporting sanctions to apply to the reported 15 top flight clubs implicated along with various individuals. By the end of April the TFF finally came to a decision, softening its original stance, declaring that those clubs found guilty would get a minimum 12 point deduction rather than automatic relegation. Life bans would only apply to those individuals who influenced the result on the pitch while those who made off-the-field attempts to fix would face a maximum ban of three years.9 This announcement was made while a trial was pending for 93 officials, players and coaches.10 The ruling from the Turkish court finally came on 3 July which found many of the main actors guilty, including Fenerbache Chairman Aziz Yildrim and other high profile figures in Turkish club football. However as the convictions handed down had already been served, having been remanded in custody prior to the trial the individuals walked free. This provoked much anger from the majority of football fans in the country, which still persists on social media with the hash tag #FightMatchFixing.
The tennis authorities continue to keenly monitor and investigate alleged instances of match-fixing activity. Having had an appeal by Daniel Kollerer for a life ban for match-fixing successfully rejected by CAS in 201111, CAS once again sided with the tennis authorities in the face of an appeal against a life ban for match-fixing, this time by Serbian player David Savic, “The CAS Panel rejected the Player’s arguments and concluded that the disputed facts had been proven not only by a preponderance of the evidence, but indeed to the Panel’s comfortable satisfaction.”12
Due to the major opportunities to spot-fix, as well as match-fix, cricket finds itself under constant scrutiny, regardless of the fact that much of the best preventative work in the field is done in the sport.
Having served the minimum terms of their respective prison sentences in the UK for spot-fixing Pakistan cricketers Mohammed Asif and Salman Butt will be having their sporting ban appeals heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (‘CAS’) in early February.13 They were initially banned by the International Cricket Council for seven and 10 years respectively.
The most powerful national SGB in cricket, the Board Of Control For Cricket In India, handed five domestic bans out of varying lengths for varying offences after an Indian TV sting alluded to five players being involved in match-fixing.14
Another sting came soon after, this time involving umpires who had been approached to fix matches on the sub-continent. All of the six accused have been stood down from umpiring duties by their respective national SGB pending the outcome of further investigations. What was particularly significant about this case is that some of the accused had been involved with unofficial Twenty20 World Cup warm-up matches. 15
Finally, Pakistan international leg spin bowler Danish Kaneira has appealed a life ban handed to him by the England and Wales Cricket Board for having “knowingly induced or encouraged” teammate Mervyn Westfield to spot-fix a county cricket game.16 He had previously been investigated on similar charges back in 2009. The Pakistan Cricket Board also then banned him from playing cricket in his home country.
Rugby is a sport that is rarely ever mentioned where match-fixing is concerned.17 However unsubstantiated allegations made by Graham Henry, the former New Zealand head coach, in his autobiography published in 2012 made people think a little more closely about what exposure the game is subject to. He alleged that in the World Cup semi-final from 2007 between New Zealand and France English referee Wayne Barnes may have match-fixed causing New Zealand to lose. With referees being so revered in the game this did not go down well with fans and commentators worldwide who saw it simply as bad sportsmanship.18
If there was any good to come out of this it shone a light on the inadequate regulations in place at all levels of the sport, journalist Gregor Paul saying, “Rugby, sanctimonious and forever convinced by its own purity, can’t be above suspicion and yet it protects itself from corruption with flimsy and outdated regulations…The fact that there is no recognised system in place to accept and then process serious allegations is perhaps typical of rugby’s misplaced arrogance that it is immune to scandal.”19 Consequently changes are being made by the International Rugby Board, and national rugby bodies, to keep the game safe.
Being a sport with little profile in the UK prior to the Olympics handball was a sport which was not often associated with being attractive to match-fixers. This was prior to reading a comprehensive report into betting-related match-fixing which said, “Disciplines with fewer players, such as basketball and handball, are also potential targets for match-rigging attempts.”20 These turned out to be prescient words as shortly after the Games seven players in the professional French handball league were placed under formal arrest for match-fixing and illegal betting offences.21 This became worldwide news because one of those detained was double Olympic gold medallist Nikola Karabatic. In a match between Montpellier, for whom all the players arrested played for, and Cesson-Sevigne in May abnormal betting patterns were reported by an operator and bets were suspended during the match.
We will see below how badminton, another sport not often thought of as a potential match-fixing target, found centre stage at the Olympic Games for the wrong reasons.
A niche ‘sport’ that has been touched by match-fixing this past year has been chess. Anwar Qureshi, the National Chess Master of Pakistan, was convicted by the vigilance committee of the National Chess Championship’s on various match-fixing charges including corruption, breach of discipline and violation of the code of conduct. The penalty handed down was a 10 year ban and Rs100,000 (£635) fine.22
Match-fixing and London 2012
London 2012 marked a watershed for the Olympic Games as it was the first time the Host City Contract contained a sports betting monitoring and co-operation clause to combat the threat of match-fixing. This was particularly appropriate for London as Great Britain is considered one of the most liberal jurisdictions for sports betting but also one of the best regulated. In the lead up to the games the International Olympic Committee (‘IOC’), especially its president Jacques Rogge, promoted the message that match-fixing was the most significant threat to the Games. Accordingly a lot of work was undertaken by many stakeholders to ensure the Olympic Games were not subject to their first ever betting-related match-fixing scandal.
At the Sport & Gambling 2012 conference, held in London on 9 October 2012, the IOC’s Paquerette Zappelli and the Gambling Commission’s (Great Britain gambling regulator) Nick Tofliuk gave a joint presentation entitled ‘Lessons from London 2012’. This was a fascinating insight into what perhaps was the most successful match-fixing operation to date.
At the outset the view was taken that the best way to co-ordinate all the different actors would be to establish a Joint Assessment Unit (‘JAU’). The JAU would be a mechanism for the collection, collation and assessment of information, both before and during the London Olympics, by the following stakeholders:
- London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (‘LOCOG’);
- UK police force;
- Non-Olympic sports;
- Betting operators and associations;
- INTERPOL; and
The challenge for the JAU would be two-fold: to protect stakeholder interests and putting theory into practice. A central tenet to the JAU’s approach would be to ensure that if any threat were to arise that the response would be proportional, which would primarily be a media management issue. One view is that proportionality should underpin the shaping of match-fixing policy, regrettably however it is seemingly all too often overlooked.
Clear and robust relationships between the above stakeholders were paramount, as was timing. The delivery model designed to evaluate the JAU was tested thoroughly through scenario based testing sessions. This raised awkward questions of capabilities and competencies, both for the JAU and its various stakeholders, highlighting the importance of depth of understanding of all the organisations involved.
Perhaps the most valuable thing to take from the JAU’s approach was that they profiled each of the Olympic sports in detail to find their respective inherent risks and vulnerabilities. To do this they looked to find where the culture was already compromised by corruption (i.e. through weak or compromised governance, doping or match-fixing). Having completed the profiling they were then able to allocate resources appropriately to the sports they had identified as being of greater risk.
Given the overall sports betting turnover at London 2012 was about 10 times higher than for Beijing 2008, the fact that there were no betting-related scandals uncovered during London 2012 indicates that the model may be able to be used internationally, perhaps as a basis for a WADA-type body in the future. What the JAU did not cover, and was never intended to do so, was what unfolded during the badminton women’s doubles tournament.
On Tuesday 31 July four pairs took to the court for two of the final matches of the group stages. They had already qualified for the next stage of the tournament. Farcical scenes then ensued whereby the players served woefully into the net and missed easy shots in an attempt to deliberately lose their matches and gain favourable draws in the knockout stages.23 During both matches the crowd audibly voiced their disapproval of the debacle. This made headline news around the world drawing heavy criticism from all quarters.24 This included Lord Coe, Chairman of LOCOG, who described it as, “depressing, who wants to sit through something like that? I know the badminton federation [the ‘BWF’]…will take that really seriously…it is unacceptable.” 25 Thankfully the BWF did as Lord Coe hoped and, having a called a disciplinary meeting the following day, disqualified all eight players from the tournament.
The fallout from this scandal brought a great deal of soul searching for the sport, not just for the BWF but also for the national badminton governing bodies. All four of the pairs received short bans from their national SGB, the prevailing view seeming to be that the offending players had been punished severely enough by being excluded from the opportunity to win an Olympic medal. Given the part of the world where the pairs came from (South Korea, China and Indonesia), the Far East being a hotbed for match-fixing activity and gambling syndicates, there were some suspicions (often voiced through social media) as to whether there was a betting corruption element in addition to the sporting motivations to fix the matches? I put this question to Ms Zapelli and Mr Tofliuk at the Sport & Gambling conference. They said that although it had been prudent for the JAU to investigate the matter there was no evidence found of the misdemeanours being related to betting.
Often the opportunity for sporting-related match-fixing stems from a structural flaw in the tournament.26 The BWF, having been caught out on the grandest of stages, has already changed the rules for Olympic doubles at Rio 2016. Following the group stage, all pairs finishing second in their groups will be placed into a second draw to determine who they face in the knockout phase. For pairs that top their group, they would have fixed positions equivalent to seeded placings in the knockout stage. The BWF hope this is will prevent such a “regrettable spectacle” ever happening again.27
Even with the unforeseen badminton scandal, publicly London 2012 was viewed as a success in the fight against match-fixing, particularly as regards the most insidious betting-related form. Many national and international institutions can take the baton from the JAU and forge ahead with effective policies that make an efficient use of resources.
Part 2 will be examining how match-fixing policies have been shaping both regionally and globally.
Kevin is a consultant and member of the editorial board for LawInSport, having previously acted as editor. He is a sports lawyer for international law firm Hill Dickinson LLP advising on commercial and regulatory issues. Kevin has become renowned in the fields of sports integrity, match-fixing and sports betting.
Kevin is also a prolific writer and speaker internationally on sports law and has been quoted in a report for the European Commission. In addition he has been interviewed by Primetime News Asia in Singapore and twice recommended by INTERPOL’s Integrity in Sport unit. He has his own regular sports law blog which looks at a variety of sports law issues. As well as his sports legal career, he is a qualified football referee officiating at the semi-professional level in the 11-a-side game and at the national level in futsal. He is also a qualified referee tutor, mentor and coach. Kevin is a keen follower of all sports, especially football, rugby, motorsport, tennis and NFL. You can connect to Kevin on LinkedIn.
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