Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

Experts warn sport at greater risk of match fixing because of coronavirus pandemic

It is believed both organised crime syndicates and “lone-wolves” will target all leagues which return first 'particularly if they are from a less affluent country'

Sport is more susceptible to match-fixing due to the financial constraints caused by the coronavirus paandemic, experts warn. Satish Kumar / The National
Sport is more susceptible to match-fixing due to the financial constraints caused by the coronavirus paandemic, experts warn. Satish Kumar / The National

World sport will be at greater risk of match fixing because of the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

That is the view of the director of intelligence at a company that provides data and “integrity services” for some of sport’s leading bodies, including Fifa, Uefa, World Rugby, NFL and MLB.

Oscar Brodkin, the director of intelligence and investigation services at Sportradar, is certain match fixers will take advantage of the situation, and suggests they already have.

It is believed both organised crime syndicates and “lone-wolves” will target all leagues which return first “particularly if they are from a less affluent country”.

Brodkin suggests salary deferrals and reductions brought about by the pandemic will cause more participants in sport to fix.

“We know that salaries and match fixing are heavily, heavily correlated,” said Brodkin, speaking on an online forum organised by the Sports Law and Policy Centre in India this week.

“A study in 2013 showed the correlation between match-fixing and salaries, but it is an obvious point.

“If players aren’t paid their salaries, they are either desperate for funds, or they feel annoyed at their employers, so they fix games out of spite. [They think], ‘If they federation is not taking care of us, why should I care?’

"Also, because of Covid-19, even the enforcement are not being paid as well, and therefore there could be more fixing.

“It is a trend, we know it happens. Everyone who works for a sports administration knows that players who haven’t been paid their salaries, or clubs who aren’t paying their salaries, are at the highest risk.”

Despite the dearth of sport during lockdown, gambling on it remained as high as 40 per cent of the usual rate, according to Brodkin.

In the absence of the usual big events, obscure leagues – such as those for Armenian table tennis or Tajikistan Under 21 football – suddenly had a market for them online.

For example, as one of the few countries not to report a case of coronavirus, Vanuatu’s cricket season carried on more or less uninterrupted.

As a result, interest in it boomed. The hastily assembled livestream of their opening T10 tournament had nearly half a million views, which is far larger than the population of the country itself.

Tellingly, Vanuatu’s T10 competition subsequently came to be sponsored by an online betting website.

If players aren’t paid their salaries, they are either desperate for funds, or they feel annoyed at their employers, so they fix games out of spite

Shane Deitz, the chief executive of Vanuatu Cricket, said in advance he understood the potential pitfalls of the new-found interest in their game from further afield.

“I don’t shy away from the prospect of betting on cricket matches,” Deitz told The National in May.

“It happens everywhere, so we can’t hide away from it.

"We have been playing international cricket for some time now so it isn’t new to us.

“Our responsibility is to protect our players and the integrity of the association.

“We will put steps in place and continue with the help of the ICC to educate our players and officials.

“Also if we detect any wrong doing, we will be tough on the players and follow ICC guidelines to ban and suspend players and officials if need be.”

Brodkin praised cricket’s ruling body for having a reputation as a “very strong unit, who engage in disruption” of known corruptors.

Five UAE cricketers are currently suspended from the sport as part of an investigation into breaches of cricket’s anti-corruption code.

Brodkin also encouraged vigilance over pop-up leagues that are created in sports with the intention of fixing, as well as existing clubs being dissolved, then taken over by match-fixers.

“We know this was the case before corona,” he said.

“The classic one is that they want to invest in clubs. They start to bring in their players, and they start to fix matches.

“This is less relevant for the big leagues, like the Indian Premier League, but it can happen.

“What they do is go into clubs, try to bring their own players, then try to fix matches.

“It is much harder to detect, because they are not as greedy when they take over clubs. They don’t need to fix every minute of every single game.

“It is definitely something to watch out for immediately.”

______________________

Bowled over: Cricket on a South Pacific archipelago being watched around the world

Courtesy Vanuatu cricket
Courtesy Vanuatu cricket

Updated: June 25, 2020 09:41 AM

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