Are Football Matches Fixed and If so in What Leagues?
Updated: 27th November 2023
Are football matches fixed? let's take a look at the facts. Football is the most popular sport in the world – there’s no question about it. There are hundreds of leagues worldwide, some sanctioned by FIFA and UEFA while others with an unregulated status.
Every weekend, hundreds of football matches are played, and millions are placed in bets. With such a great number of matches and bets, there’s bound to be some irregularity.
Football betting is a favourite pastime for millions of people in the UK and Europe. It’s fun and exciting, and there are plenty of options at your disposal. What’s not to love? Well, one of the facts we hate is that some people are getting rich from it while you can’t score even one match on your slip.
Although some are either lucky or better than most at betting, many people make money on fixed football matches. Fixed football matches are a hot topic in the sports community. While many don’t believe fixed matches even exist, others are sure of it.
If you take a peek in football history, you’ll find plenty of cases of fixed football matches. And, they don’t take place in minor leagues not sanctioned by FIFA or EUFA – rigged football matches take place in some of the biggest leagues around Europe.
What Leagues Have Fixed Football Matches?
Sepp Herberger, a legendary German football manager, once said that people love to watch matches because they simply don’t know who’ll win. That’s true up to a certain point – some people watch matches because they know who’ll win beforehand and have bet on it.
Don’t be so naive to think that fixed football matches are just a figment of someone’s imagination. Sports betting, especially football betting, is a lucrative business. As long as there are millions there for the taking, someone will take them.
Whether it’s a criminal organization or even football managers or players, it doesn’t matter. The reality is that there are fixed football matches and the problem is becoming too hot to handle.
According to experts, around 300 football matches are fixed every year. That’s for Europe only – who knows how big the number is in Asia or anywhere else in the world. This has sparked the need for so-called fraud analysts at bookies that can spot a fixed bet easily and prevent criminals from ripping bookies off. However, sometimes, their expertise is not enough.
In general, fixed match scandals seem to originate in unsanctioned leagues in Asia or Africa. However, history has shown that even the biggest European football leagues are not immune to it, with many high-profile names being accused of fixing football matches.
How Are They Detected?
Spotting a fixed football match isn’t easy. That’s why bookies use fraud analysts who process a lot of data before weekends that might indicate a match has been fixed. These experts also monitor betting activity on all the games and the betting after kick-off. The match might be fixed if there’s a huge discrepancy between the odds.
To put things into perspective, if a team with around 30% chance to win in their next game jumps up to 85% and it isn’t because of an injury of their opponent’s key player or players, something’s not right.
It’s up to the fraud analysts to investigate the matter further and report it to the authorities. From thereon, a massive investigation might be launched if there’s enough proof of match fixing.
When the odds jump up to a suspiciously high level, something is going on. Of course, odds are flexible, but only a few points up and down. If they skyrocket in just a few hours, there’s almost always some meddling with the game.
For years, experts from betting companies have claimed that even Premier League matches have been fixed in the past and may also be happening today. Although there’s no proof of it until now, there have been match fixing scandals in lower-tier English football leagues. Even worse, many suspect players are involved in it even if the team refuses to accept an offer.
Despite the EPL being lauded as the cleanest football league, it is naive to believe in the myth of it being immune to match fixing.
Biggest Football Match Fixing Scandals
Take a look back at the past, and you’ll see that there were many match fixing scandals in minor and major football leagues.
Chris Eaton, former head of security at FIFA, said that football is in crisis because of match fixing in 2013. This concern was deepened by former UEFA president Michel Platini, who said that football is dead should match fixing continue.
Six years later, authorities are doing everything they can to stop it, yet they’ve been unsuccessful in many cases.
Match fixing is most often associated with Asian crime organizations that generate billions of pounds per year from fixed football betting.
In Europe, matches in Spain, England, and Estonia have been under the radar for being fixed, with 11 men charged for fixing matches in Estonia in 2013.
Felice Colombo 1980
In 1980, the great betting scandal in Italy led to the life ban of Milan’s president Felice Colombo. He was accused of rigging games by selecting favourable referees. Milan and Lazio were both involved in the scandal along with Colombo and other high-profile names.
Disgrace of Gijon 1982
In 1982, Germany and Austria played a game at the World Cup which is known as the Disgrace of Gijon. Both national teams were accused of fixing the match, yet there was never an official investigation.
Massimiliano Allegri 2000
In 2000, 8 players in Italy were found guilty of match fixing including now-famous coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Robert Hoyzer 2005
The 2005 Bundesliga match fixing scandal included referee Robert Hoyzer who bet on and fixed matches in his favour. He later admitted to the allegations and confirmed that he’s been involved with a Croat gambling syndicate.
The same year, former Italian champion Genoa was relegated to Serie C1 after winning Serie B. Authorities have discovered that the club bribed their opponents in the final match that season which saw Genoa win promotion to the Serie A.
As a result, the club’s president Enrico Preziosi was banned for 5 years from football activities.
Semi-Final EUFA Cup 2008
Even bigger matches may have been fixed in the past. In 2008, a Spanish court launched an investigation against the Russian Mafia who reportedly tried to fix the 07-08 semi-final EUFA Cup tie between Zenit St. Petersburg and Bayern Munich.
No club admitted to the rumours and the investigation was abandoned later due to lack of evidence.
These are just some of the biggest cases of match fixing in the past few decades. There are many more still under investigation involving reputable football figures.
As things currently stand now, there’s no end to match fixing in sight.
What can be Done to Prevent It?
FIFA and UEFA have already announced anti-match fixing plans that may help in the fight against match fixing. However, with many players, teams, managers, and referees cooperating, things are not going great.
For every high-profile match fixing scandal resolved a few new ones take its place. With so much money involved in match fixing, lower-tier clubs and players will always be keen to earn something on the side.
In order for everything to work, teams, players, referees, fraud analysts, and the authorities need to work together. Unless they put a stop to match fixing soon, it won’t be long before it ruins football for all of us.
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