Match fixing expert on betting: 'Prohibition doesn't work'

Jon Campbell
Heading into Tuesday's  World Cup qualifying match in Paris, France faced a two-goal deficit heading into its second-leg match against Ukraine. It meant France needed an unlikely three-goal victory to advance to next year's World Cup in Brazil.

If what happened next didn't at least raise your eyebrows, it's only because your head is buried upside down in the sand.

France went up 1-0 in the 22nd minute on a goal by Mamadou Sakho to start to the comeback. Nothing remarkable except for Ukraine's horrible defense on the play.

But France scored its next goal in the 34th minute in what should go down as one of the worst missed offside calls in World Cup history. The YouTube clip is undeniable.

Ukraine then received a red card in the 47th minute and was forced to play almost the entire second half short a man. And in the 72nd minute, France punched its ticket to the World Cup on an ugly own goal by Oleg Gusev.

3-0 France.

For the second straight World Cup, Les Bleus squeak into the greatest soccer showcase on the globe under a cloud of major controversy. If you don't remember the last time, just make sure you don’t ask an Irishman to remind you about Thierry Henry's hand ball in 2009. 

Conspiracy hogwash you say? You don’t have to take my word that match-fixing runs rampant in the soccer world these days.

"Match fixing is the preeminent issue facing sport now. It dwarfs doping. Doping is cheating to win,” says Declan Hill, a world expert on corruption in soccer and author of the recently released Insider’s Guide to Match Fixing In Football.

In the case of France – if there was something fishy going on here – the assumption is that FIFA would prefer to have a power team in the World Cup with its high TV ratings and sponsorship possibilities. Unfortunately, though, too often it’s the sportsbooks and gambling industry in general that get the bad wrap for fixing matches.

As Hill writes, there are two different kinds of match-fixing: arrangements, whereby teams or organizations force an outcome, and gambling fixes, which are predominantly organized by Asian betting syndicates.

Hill recently attended a conference in Denmark to talk about “the red flags of bullshit” when it comes to the subject of match-fixing.

"One of the red flags was when people started talking about 'cleaning up the illegal betting' industry,” he said. “What? What does that have to do with fixing? Illegal betting is just a complete red herring. The problem is corruption and fixing. Whether betting is legal or illegal is a complete non sequitur in this debate."

Some leagues are now using betting market monitoring services like Sportradar to help detect when match fixing is actually happening. But that can only happen in regulated markets, ones where the sportsbooks are just as eager to stamp out fixing as the average bettor looking to throw a few dollars on a game.

Sadly, critics of regulated sports betting in North America still point to match fixing as a scare tactic to sway public opinion. 

“Prohibition doesn’t work,” says Hill. “It does not work… The gambling industry is not the problem. The gambling industry is part of the solution.”

Hill says the industry’s part in that solution is for the sports books to contribute to an international anti-corruption agency that gets to the root of the deviance in Asia.

“That way you can go to regulators and sports officials and say: 'Not only do we want honestly played sports, we're going to pay a little amount to ensure that is.’ A little by the sports gambling industry is an enormous amount of money for sport. And say: 'Hey look, we're the guys that get defrauded if there is fixing. We're the guys that get defrauded if there is corruption.’"

But that’s not going to fix the issue on its own. It’s about changing the culture within the sport that this is a practice that is even remotely acceptable.

“'The way we stop the next round of globalized sports corruption is to make the Asian governments be responsible for their own citizens. And the fact of the matter is Asian match fixers are traveling around the world conducting illegal biz deals to corrupt sports. There's nobody better in this world to arrest Asian match fixers than Asians. So get your finger out, do what you're supposed to do."

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Posted by HisWickedness
3 years ago

Its not just soccer and its not just Asian crime syndicates fixing matches. If you cant see the bulls*#t in American sports as well then you are not looking hard enough. Look to the last two primetime football games...big money on one side with mysterious flags being thrown right at the end of the game. Vegas wins again. Big money= corruption...doesn't matter what the industry is

Posted by realvalentin
3 years ago

Haven't read his 2nd book, but I did hear that Mr Hill targets the Asians a lot and often at times is overly dramatic in his witchhunts Not denying that fixes don't happen but they aren't as bad in soccer as they are in basketball. Also if you are an illegal betting operation that offers more than a $300 limit on the CSL, will I don't really have too much sympathy there Also one must realize that for all the talk about the "beautiful game" soccer/futbol for the most part is a dirty sport. Its a tough job to officiate a match and player know this, so botched calls that may seem like fixes are honestly just really tough for most refs to see anyways here is a better example of fixed play 1:11 mark regardless of my opinions though, good writeup and hill's first book is entertaining cheers

Posted by bawlmer
3 years ago

Jon I completely agree that match fixing is way too prevalent throughout the sport of soccer, more than any other sport that I can think of, but the example that you chose to use does not tell the whole story. Yes the ref blew the call on the goal that you mention above, but he also blew the call on the goal that was taken away. I also dont think you can argue with the two yellow cards that were given leading to the red card being issued. Is match fixing a problem in soccer? Yes. Is the best way to combat match fixing, in any sport throughout the world, is to regulate the sports betting industry via government or specific regulatory authorities, especially in the USA? Absolutely 100%. Is it is absolutely ludicrous that the big 4 sports in the USA claim that black market betting and no regulation of sports betting takes away from the integrity of the game as opposed to the opposite? YES 1000% World Cup qualifiers are not game we should be looking at when we talk about match fixing.

Posted by Jon_Campbell
3 years ago

The bigger point you're missing here bawlmer is that whether this game was fixed/ otherwise influenced or not, is that match fixing is so prevalent in soccer right now, that when you see things like this happen in a game, the question has to be raised. That's sad and not enough is being done to fight it. Even worse, bettors and the gambling industry get blamed when we're the ones getting defrauded and who want it stopped.

Posted by MEX_ROOKIE
3 years ago

Next World Cup is not in Qatar, it is in Brazil

Posted by bawlmer
3 years ago

The example you mention above int he video is really meaningless. Ten minutes before that goal France had a goal taken away to an offside call where Benzema was clearly ONSIDE. Also the red card was given after a second yellow card was received and was not a straight red. There is no way this game was fixed and you are just picking and choosing different items to support your argument without looking at all the facts. That is called irresponsible journalism.

Posted by sports_Network
3 years ago

I agree wholeheartedly! the concept of a so called 'fix' is clear, "if the match was fixed on behalf of France, then why take a goal that was clearly onside (as the replay indicates it to be)away from them? daaahhhhhhhhhh. This match was the farthest thing from a so called 'fix' immaginable, is their match fixing in the UEFA, yes, but by the teams involved, no one else, and they are related around the 'draw' it's an internal thing, understand football/soccer and you'll understand how games are played, and the outcome of the final results..unfortunately, it's worse in South America..
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Top Response

Posted by bawlmer
3 years ago

"The example you mention above int he video is really meaningless. Ten minutes before that goal France had a goal taken away to an offside call where Benzema was clearly ONSIDE. Also the red card was given after a second yellow card was received and..."