Integrity is one of the most important things in professional sports. Without it, there can be none. All athletes and teams participating in a competition need to do their best to win – everything allowed by the rule of the competition they participate in, and nothing more. Of course, athletes do fail to follow the rules to the letter, they break them by mistake (sometimes, not so much – but that’s a matter for another time) and they even cheat at times to be better at their respective discipline. These things happen – and when they are found out (because usually, they are), they can destroy the reputation of athletes, teams, sometimes even entire nations. These are, in turn, all practices to win. And while these are all threats to the integrity of sports, they are by far not as dangerous as the practice of losing on purpose.
When a match or a fight is lost on purpose – this is known as “throwing a game” – there is usually one reason behind it: money. Money to be made on bets, to be exact. Sports betting can be a very lucrative activity if those placing the bets know the outcome of a competition before it ends. And this usually happens under the radar, so the officials, the authorities, usually even the athletes’ teammates know nothing about it. There are many known methods of match-fixing, ranging from bribing match officials to individual players or athletes in order to make sure the soccer match or boxing bout ends the way the people arranging it want it to.
Match-fixing over the years
This is by far not a modern-day phenomenon – if anything, the incidence of match-fixing has decreased in the age of the internet. This doesn’t mean it disappeared. Major match-fixing scandals have broken out as recently as this year, involving sports ranging from badminton to tennis, and it has plagued even the most recent of sports, competitive video gaming (also known as eSports). The most resounding scandals are, in turn, related to the most followed sport in the world: association football (soccer). And it can emerge pretty much anywhere where soccer is played professionally: earlier this year, the Super Eagles’ own Samson Siasia was handed a lifetime ban by FIFA after he admitted to “bribes in relation to the manipulation of matches in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics”.
There are several organizations that made it their goal to fight against match-fixing and protecting the integrity of sports.
One of them is Sportsradar, a Swiss multinational corporation that provides the betting industry with up-to-the-minute statistics and odds suggestions, at the same time monitoring the market to detect any potentially suspicious betting patterns that would suggest an illegal activity.
Another major player in the fight against match-fixing is the International Betting Integrity Association, an industry body that gathers all the biggest betting groups around the world, fighting on the frontlines to eradicate betting-related corruption, safeguard the integrity of both the sports and the betting industry, and advocate for informed policies when it comes to betting regulation.
These groups are working with regulatory authorities, sports leagues, and the betting industry itself to make sure the influence of foul players doesn’t ruin the integrity and reputation of sports – and the trust of the fans.