Bribes and bets: the ugly side of football

2013-02-17 10:00

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Not too long ago when punters wanted to place a bet on a football match, they had three options: a win, a draw or a loss.

Since then, things have changed considerably, and today bets are taken on just about anything – the name of the first goal scorer, the time of the first corner and substitutions. The list is endless.

This, in turn, has made life much simpler for those wanting to win bets by illegal means.

No longer is it necessary to bribe at least several players in a team, it could be enough to bribe just a single player to miss a penalty kick.

A match official – the referee or his assistants – could be bribed to send off a certain player.

South African-born marksman Sean Dundee, who spent most of his football career playing in the German Bundesliga, admitted in an interview with a German TV channel two years ago that he had been asked whether he was willing to miss a penalty for €10 000 (about R118 000 in today’s currency exchange) or €20 000.

He said: “I told the person that I would not do something like that, but I know he also approached other players.”

Match-fixing for the purposes of betting has also been helped by the widespread use of online betting, which allows punters to place lots of money on matches being played thousands of kilometres away.

This, it seems, is what the Singapore criminal syndicate that stands accused of influencing about 680 matches worldwide has been using.

Europol, the European Union’s joint police body, announced just over two weeks ago that their wide-ranging investigations had established that the syndicate spent about €2 million to bribe players, officials and referees.

They made an €8?million profit from bets amounting to €16 million.

A betting expert, who asked not to be named, said that the syndicate in question seems to have made use of bets that would have been considered reasonably safe, which is

why their profits seemed small in relation to the amount of money bet.

“Most of the bets were also placed in Asia, using the so-called Asian handicap system, whereby the possibility of a draw is eliminated,” the source said. “Instead, one team starts with a perceived advantage.

This reduced the odds, but also the risks.

“The syndicate then bribes somebody involved in the match to place something like a guarantee to ensure that they win their bet.”

The lengthy Europol probe appears to have finally uncovered an international match-fixing ring that has made use of the ever-changing possibilities to rig matches.

Betting seems to be becoming the new scourge in international sport and, just like the other scourge, doping, it would appear that those wanting to cheat are always devising new methods to stay ahead of those wanting to clean up the sport.

» Auf der Heyde is a South African football journalist and author currently living in Berlin, Germany.

Match-fixing scam.pdf

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