Football across the world has become a lucrative business on and off the field of play for most owners and stakeholders involved in the round leather game.
It is a game that has brought so much global viewership which in turn yields large profit margins, depending on the successful running of the affairs of the football club.
Besides, most of these betting sites have promoted the game of football globally, of which, directly or indirectly they have contributed to the act of match fixing in a bid to increase their financial gains.
In most parts of the world, most especially, the Spanish League, English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Italian League and Ligue I in France which has wide coverage and followership, these clubs remain the most entertaining leagues with lots of advertising packages and endorsements.
Fixing a team game with 11 players on each side is never going to be easy. The simplest and most effective way might be to cobble the referee, and a litany of match officials have been targeted over the years. In 2005, the leading German referee Robert Hoyzer was sentenced to two years and five months in prison after admitting fixing (or trying to fix) nine matches. One German Cup game whose result he influenced is remembered for the rash sending-off of a player in the first half, and the awarding of two dubious penalties. Hoyzer later admitted that, in return for fixing the result of that game, he received around £46,000 and a flat-screen television.
After referees, goalkeepers are the next most vulnerable players for the attention of match-fixers. Unlike any outfield player, one “slip” can cost their team a goal, and two Premiership keepers, Bruce Grobbelaar of Liverpool and Hans Segers of Wimbledon, were famously accused of involvement in a match-fixing plot in 1994. Both were cleared by a court case, then later found guilty of breaching betting regulations by the Football Association.
However, when the football season in most parts of Europe is coming to an end, there tend to be surprises in terms of results between the “big” and “small” clubs who are fighting for the title and relegation, something which boils down to whether football matches are rigged or not.
Emphasis would be on the Barclay’s Premier League where the final lapses of the league have seen some teams such as Sunderland and Newcastle pulling at straws against the heavyweights like Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool in a bid to avoid the drop.
Sunderland, who often find themselves in these kind of situations, have narrowly escaped relegation twice and are in the mud once again, knowing fully that winning all their matches would guarantee their safety for top flight football in England next season.
Last weekend, the Black Cats held Arsenal to a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light to one point above the relegation zone with four matches left. While Newcastle have garnered unthinkable results by holding Manchester City 1-1 before coming back from two goals down to level with Liverpool with a 2-2 draw last weekend.
There is no argument that the possibilities of these two teams overcoming some of these giants are certain, however, it goes beyond what the eyes can see.
But then, questions have arisen on whether some of these matches were fixed, regardless of the intensity of those matches, coupled with the fact that some of these players tend to play well, only to still, allow the opposite team to win.
During the 2009-2010 season when Chelsea won the Premier League title under former coach, Carlos Ancelotti, there were claims that the match was pre-planned between the Blues and the Reds (Liverpool) so that Manchester United would not win the league for the 19th time.
It seemed quite obvious in the match as former Liverpool captain, Steve Gerrad gladly gifted a back pass to Didier Drogba for Chelsea’s opening goal; this eventually paved way for the Blues to win the title against their arch rivals, Man United.
In some cases, teams who are battling to stay a shot above relegation often find a way of piercing the big teams in England, most especially the season when West Ham and Manchester United had a brilliant business exchange for Carlos Tevez which helped West Ham escape relegation that season (2006-2007).
West Ham’s Tevez had already concluded a deal to move to Old Trafford the following season and was also on the verge of kissing the Premier League goodbye but due to their mutual relationship, Manchester United lost to West Ham, the only goal was scored by Tevez.
There are many instances to be made regarding match fixing in England, something which has not helped the growth and development of football internationally.
According to “Fed Up with Corruption in Football”, the European Socialist Party in the European Parliament invited the anti-match-fixing organization Federbet to present the results of its 2015 report. It was reported that about 50 games in the 2014-2015 season are suspected to have been rigged and countries involved are the Italian, German, Belgian, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, Croatian, Latvian, Romanian, Slovenian and Ukrainian teams.
Also, the investigation by Europol, the European Union’s joint police body, found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia, South and Central America.
The probe uncovered 8 million ($10.9 million) in betting profits and 2 million ($2.7 million) in bribes to players and officials and has already led to several prosecutions.
Swift and proper steps may need to be taken by the world soccer governing body and the English Federation to curb the extent of match fixing in football matches, the extent at which the rate of match fixing may continue may dent the true image of football in the future; a thing which would affect clubs (less paid) who can not afford the backroom gifts.