When extensive betting markets are bringing sport in to disrepute, it’s time to debilitate the situation at the source.
The gambling industry has become embroiled in controversial and scandalous circumstance - and not for the first time - with obscure markets encouraging bets on the number of corners in a match, players to be booked and sent off, the number of goals in a game, the time of the first goal or whether a penalty will be awarded. And it’s these patterns that are being manipulated by shameless, opportunistic punters.
The ease and convenience of in-play betting has opened up a digital den of iniquity for fraudsters to monopolise. Operating in the anonymity of the internet, these corrupt culprits are successfully jeopardising the integrity of sport and its governing bodies.
At present these activities are confined to the lower leagues where low wages, and less monitoring and exposure, breeds temptation. The numbers are low, but the impact is great enough to taint the game.
Blackburn Rovers striker DJ Campbell became the highest profile footballer to be arrested as part of an investigation into alleged spot-fixing. He was the sixth person to be held in relation to those allegations. Campbell, alongside former Portsmouth player Sam Sodje, his two brothers Stephen and Tranmere Rovers forward Akpo, the latter’s team-mate Ian Goodison and Oldham Athletic’s Cristian Montaño, have all been bailed until next April.
But how do we eradicate this evil? Well, illegal betting syndicates are purportedly worth £320billion worldwide with a large proportion of money being generated in Asia where - in contrast to Europe - gambling is mainly unregulated.
So while the Football Association, the Premier League, Football League and the Professional Footballers’ Association continue to educate on a domestic front, and warn of the perils of players prostituting their services, identifying those involved in betting syndicates that are having an outside influence from further afield is a completely different proposition. They’re elusive; it’s like chasing shadows in a darkened desert.
The above parties are working harmoniously to aid the National Crime Agency with their investigations and in turn the Gambling Commission is lending its support in a bid to alleviate the matter. However, that only serves to confront a microcosm of a global problem that transcends borders both digitally and geographically.
The FA has suggested it would consider signing up to a cross-sport anti-corruption body that would provide a rapid response to allegations of match and spot-fixing. The governing body of the English game has identified that the international dimension to fixing requires a unified and co-ordinated organisation that would pool together resources and intelligence and work with betting operators and police. Something along the lines of Interpol if you will.
On the other hand, as previously mentioned, the problem needs to be cut at the source and that currently sits in the hands of the Government. The Gambling Bill is in the committee stage and reportedly three years away from becoming legislation.
A new Clause approved by Parliament would effectively tighten gambling laws and transfer the regulation of all spread betting, both domestically and overseas, from the Financial Conduct Authority to the Gambling Commission. Hopefully, in time, pending further inquiry once police investigations are closed, that will give sport the right to license which type of bets are allowable. Instead of playing in to the hands of those corrupting our game, the initiative needs to be taken away from them.
Discard the obscure bets, restrict the possibility for the unscrupulous to influence our beautiful game, and ensure policy makers give sport and the regulatory bodies all the powers that they need to fight match-fixing.