The sporting industry generates billions of dollars each week. There are many people who make a good honest living from the proceeds of sport. In fact, if sport had to disappear from the landscape, millions of people will be unemployed and in desperate trouble. It is therefore critical to eradicate anything that threatens the integrity of sport. There are unfortunately those iniquitous characters who employ nefarious methods to leverage ill-gotten financial gains from the unsuspecting public by persuading sportsmen and administrators to become complicit in match-fixing and spot-fixing. They use the lure of money to ensnare their victims – sportsmen and administrators alike – using sports betting outlets as their playgrounds. While it is almost impossible to judge just how far this cancer has spread, it is almost certainly a far bigger problem than we anticipate. One thing is clear, they are inflicting irreparable damage the sporting industry.
There are currently two high profile cases of match fixing doing the rounds.
The first case is the alleged spot-fixing by four Pakistan bowlers who were required to bowl no balls in predetermined overs for substantial sums of money in their matches against England. The bowlers were withdrawn from the tour. The investigation is ongoing and has soured relations between England and Pakistan resulting in the Pakistan chief, Ijaz Butt, slamming Andrew Strauss’s men as match-fixers claiming that England were paid to lose the third one-day international at the Oval, which Pakistan won by 23 runs. Butt claimed: “There is loud and clear talk in the bookies circle that some English players have been paid enormous amounts of money to lose the match. “No wonder there was total collapse of the English side. We won the match and are under suspicion. England lost, their players should be investigated”.
The second case of match fixing involves three time world champion and current world no. 1 snooker player John Higgins. In May, the News of the World alleged that Wishaw-born Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney had agreed to fix frames in a World Series of Snooker event in Ukraine for £261,000. I am pleased to report that Higgins has been cleared of the match-fixing charges brought against him and will be free to resume his snooker career in November. He has, however, been handed a back-dated six-month ban and fined £75,000 on the lesser charges of breaching rules by discussing betting and failing to report an approach from a party trying to instigate corruption in the game. He was also ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.
There is also the ongoing case of alleged match fixing during Steven Maguire’s match against Jamie Burnett at the UK Championship in Telford on December 15.
Match fixing or spot-fixing is a scourge that has tainted sport for many years now. The first big scandal to hit the cricketing world was the Hansie Cronje match fixing scandal in India more than a decade ago. Hansie admitted to spot-fixing, but never to throwing a match, which seems to indicate that players feel that spot-fixing is not as serious as throwing an entire match and are therefore more open to suggestions of this nature. This is absolutely naïve and certainly not well thought through, because these actions have the same dire ramifications.
It automatically leads one to ponder just how endemic these surreptitious dealings actually are. How deep and how wide have the tentacles of corruption infiltrated sport?
Just how many sporting codes have been or are affected by corruption? Since sports-betting is such a massive industry, it is hard to see any (especially the big money spinners) escaping the clutches of the corrupt operators.
Could this phenomenon be manipulated to the extent that a sportsman could buy his way to the no 1 spot, or worse even, a country pay its way to the top ranking in a particular sport?