Ghent University: Nearly 20% of people in sports confronted with (in)direct match-fixing proposals

It is well known that match-fixing is a globally spread and harmful phenomenon in the world of sport. A large-scale international study, coordinated by Ghent University, examined match-fixing in 7 European countries. The first study results show that almost 20% of the more than 5000 participants reported (in)direct match-fixing proposals. More specifically, 18% of the participants indicated that they personally knew one or more persons who had been approached to “fix” a match. Additionally, 8% of the participants revealed that they had already been approached themselves for a match-fixing proposal. “However, a clear distinction should be made between the different types of match-fixing”, clarifies Van Der Hoeven.

Betting-related vs. sporting-related match-fixing
On the one hand, there is the betting-related type of match-fixing, in which matches or specific events during matches are manipulated to earn money by betting on the manipulated match. Only 10% of the participants who had already been approached for match-fixing indicated that the proposal was made solely for the purpose of making money by betting on the manipulated match during the last (or only) time they were approached. In most cases, they were offered money and sometimes other material inducements to accept the proposal. Almost 40% of them were also threatened or pressured to fix the match. Eventually, 36% indicated that they consented to the betting-related proposal, mainly because of the money and / or other material inducements offered, or because they experienced financial difficulties at that time.

On the other hand, there is match-fixing for sporting purposes, often referred to as “sporting-related match-fixing.” Almost 70% of the approached participants indicated that the last or only time they were approached, the proposal had a sporting-related purpose only. These persons were mainly approached to prevent the relegation of a specific club or player or to enable a specific club or player to win the championship. With this type of match-fixing, the outcome of the match (who wins / loses) was in more than 80% of the cases at stake. In the majority of these cases a deliberate underperformance was expected and money was offered in about 50% of the cases, frequently supplemented by other material inducement (ranging from beer to (luxury) gifts such as a trip or even a car). Almost 20% of those who received a sporting-related match-fixing proposal were also threatened or pressured. Eventually, 27% consented to the sporting-related match-fixing proposal. Consenting to the sporting-related match-fixing proposal was mainly seen as a friendly gesture towards another club or athlete. In other cases, people often consented because of the money and / or other material inducements offered, or because they were pressured by their own team.

Prevention of sporting-related match-fixing
Despite the clear threat of sporting-related match-fixing, this type of match-fixing is often underestimated and therefore neglected in prevention initiatives. “In a second phase, the EPOSM project will try to fill this gap by elaborating action plans and workshops on the prevention of match-fixing in general and sporting-related match-fixing in particular”, adds Van Der Hoeven.

Furthermore, the EPOSM study also shows that 48% of the people who reported (in)direct match-fixing proposals had never reported their suspicions or experiences to anyone. The people who had reported their suspicions or experiences of match-fixing to someone, mainly did so to teammates, coaches, or board members of their sport club. In a very limited number of cases, reports were made to an anonymous reporting line or to the police. This may indicate that reporting channels are insufficiently known and / or that people are often afraid to report their suspicions or experiences of match-fixing to anyone. “In addition to awareness-raising initiatives, suitable reporting channels and whistleblowing protection programs are also important in the prevention of match-fixing”, concludes Van Der Hoeven.

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