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In organized sports, match fixing occurs as a match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result, violating the rules of the game and often the law. There is a variety of reason for this, but the most common is in exchange for a payoff from gamblers. Players might also intentionally perform poorly to get an advantage in the future, such as a better draft pick, or an easier opponent in a playoff. A player might also play poorly to rig a handicap system.
Match fixing, when motivated by gambling, requires contacts (and normally money transfers) between gamblers, players, team officials, and/or referees. These contacts and transfer can sometimes be found, and lead to prosecution, by law or by the sports league(s). In contrast, losing for future advantages is internal to the team and very hard to prove. Often, substitutions made by the coach designed to deliberately increase the team's chances of losing (frequently by having one or more key players sit out, often using minimal or phantom injuries as a public excuse for doing this), rather than ordering the players actually on the field to intentionally underperform, were cited as the main factor in cases where this has been alleged.
Match-fixing generally refers to fixing the final result of the game. Another form of match-fixing, known as spot-fixing, involves fixing small events within a match which can be gambled upon, but which are unlikely to prove decisive in determining the final result of the game.
Match fixing is known by a lot of different names. Such names include game fixing, race fixing or sports fixing. Where the sporting competition in question is a race then the incident is referred to as race fixing. Games that are deliberately lost are sometimes called thrown games. When a team intentionally loses a game, or does not score as high as it can, to obtain a perceived future competitive advantage (for instance, earning a high draft pick) rather than gamblers being involved, the team is often said to have tanked the game instead of having thrown it. In pool hustling, tanking is known as dumping. In sports where a handicap system exists and is capable of being abused, tanking is known as sandbagging.
The major motivations behind match fixing are gambling and future team advantage.
There may be financial gain through agreements with gamblers. The most infamous example of this in North America was the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, in which several members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to fix the World Series.
One of the best-known examples of gambling-related race fixing (in motorsports) is the 1933 Tripoli Grand Prix, in which the winning number of the lottery was determined by the number of the race-winning car. One ticket holder held the number belonging to Achille Varzi, contacted him and agreed to share the winning should he win. Varzi contacted other drivers who agreed to share the money if they deliberately lost. Despite a poor start, Varzi won the race after his opponents deliberately underperformed throughout the race.
Many sports have tournaments where the result of one round determines their opponent in the next round. As a result, by tanking a match, a team can face an easier opponent in the next round, making them more likely to win.
In the National Basketball Association, there have also been allegations[by whom?] of teams tanking games to finish in sixth rather than fifth place in the conference standings, thus enabling the team in question to evade a possible playoff match with the conference's top seed until the final round of playoffs in that conference (for more details see single-elimination tournament). The NBA is the only one of the four major professional sports leagues of the United States in which home advantage in the playoffs is based strictly on regular-season record without regard to seeding. Following the 2006 season, the NBA changed its playoff format so that the best second-place team in each conference would be able to obtain up to the #2 seed should it have the second-best conference record.
On occasion, a National Football League team has also been accused of throwing its final regular-season game in an attempt to "choose" its possible opponent in the subsequent playoffs.
Perhaps the most notable example of this was when the San Francisco 49ers, who had clinched a playoff berth, lost their regular-season finale in 1988 to the Los Angeles Rams, thereby knocking the New York Giants (who had defeated the 49ers in the playoffs in both 1985 and 1986, also injuring 49er quarterback Joe Montana in the latter year's game) out of the postseason on tiebreakers; after the game, Giants quarterback Phil Simms angrily accused the 49ers of "laying down like dogs."
A more recent example of possible tanking occurred in the ice hockey competition at the 2006 Winter Olympics. In Pool B, Sweden was to face Slovakia in the last pool match for both teams. Sweden coach Bengt-Åke Gustafsson publicly contemplated tanking against Slovakia, knowing that if his team won, their quarterfinal opponent would either be Canada, the 2002 gold medalists, or the Czech Republic, 1998 gold medalists. Gustafsson would tell Swedish television "One is cholera, the other the plague." Sweden lost the match 3–0; the most obvious sign of tanking was when Sweden had a five-on-three powerplay with five NHL stars—Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Lidström, and Fredrik Modin—on the ice, and failed to put a shot on goal. (Sports Illustrated writer Michael Farber would say about this particular powerplay, "If the Swedes had passed the puck any more, their next opponent would have been the Washington Generals.") If he was seeking to tank, Gustafsson got his wish; Sweden would face a much less formidable quarterfinal opponent in Switzerland. Canada would lose to Russia in a quarterfinal in the opposite bracket, while Sweden went on to win the gold medal, defeating the Czechs in the semifinals.
The 1998 Tiger Cup - an international football tournament contested by countries in South East Asia - saw an example of two teams trying to lose a match. The tournament was hosted by Vietnam and the eight countries competing were split into two groups of four. The top two in each group advanced to the semi-finals with the winners playing the runners-up of the other group. In the first group Singapore won the group with Vietnam finishing second. This meant that the winners of the second group would have to travel to Hanoi to play the host nation in the national stadium on their national day whilst the runners-up would face Singapore in Ho Chi Minh City where the final group match was taking place. As the two teams involved - Thailand and Indonesia - had both already qualified for the semi-finals it was in their interest to lose the match and finish in second place. As the game progressed neither side seemed particularly concerned with scoring whilst the defending was lackadaisical. As the match entered stoppage time the Indonesian defender Mursyid Effendi scored an own goal (overcoming the efforts of the opposition players to stop him). Both teams were fined $40,000 and Effendi was banned from international football for life.
The 2012 Summer Olympics saw at least two examples of actual or potential tanking of this type:
Most top-level sports leagues in North America and Australia hold drafts to allocate young players to the league's teams. The order in which teams select players is often the inverse of their standings in the previous season. As a result, a team may have a significant incentive to tank games to secure a higher pick in the league's next draft, and a number of leagues have changed their draft rules to remove (or at least limit) potential incentives to tank.
From 1966 to 1984, the NBA used a coin flip between the teams with the worst records in each of the league's two conferences to determine the recipient of the top pick. In the 1983–84 season, several teams were accused of tanking games in an attempt to gain a top position in the 1984 draft, which would eventually produce four Hall of Fame players. As a result of this, the NBA established a draft lottery in advance of the 1985 draft, involving all teams that did not make the playoffs in the previous season.
Even though the current lottery gives the team with the worst record only a 25% chance at the top pick (with that team guaranteed no worse than the fourth pick), there can still be some incentive for a team to tank. In an interview just before the start of the 2013–14 season, an NBA general manager who chose to remain anonymous (though speculated to be either Rob Hennigan of the Orlando Magic or Ryan McDonough of the Phoenix Suns) stated in an interview for ESPN The Magazine that his team would try to tank that season to have the best chance at a top pick in the 2014 NBA draft, which was anticipated to be one of the deepest in recent league history.
The Australian Football League, the main competition of Australian rules football, has used a system of priority draft picks since 1993, with poorly-performing teams receiving extra selections at or near the start of the draft. Prior to 2012, a team automatically received a priority pick if its win-loss record met pre-defined eligibility criteria. However, that system led to accusations of tanking by several clubs—most notably by Melbourne in 2009 (the club was found not guilty, but the head coach and general manager were found guilty on related charges). Since 2012, priority picks are awarded at the discretion of the AFL Commission, the governing body.of both the AFL and the overall sport.
NFL teams have been accused of tanking games to obtain a more favorable schedule the following season; this was especially true between 1977 and 1993, when a team finishing last in a five-team division would get to play five of its eight non-division matches the next season against other last-place teams.
In addition to the match fixing that is committed by players, coaches and/or team officials, it is not unheard of to have results manipulated by corrupt referees. Since 2004, separate scandals have erupted in prominent sports leagues in Portugal, Germany (Bundesliga scandal), Brazil (Brazilian football match-fixing scandal) and the United States (see Tim Donaghy scandal), all of which concerned referees who fixed matches for gamblers. Many sports writers have speculated that in leagues with high player salaries, it is far more likely for a referee to become corrupt since their pay in such competitions is usually much less than that of the players.
On December 2, 1896, former Old West lawman Wyatt Earp refereed the Fitzsimmons vs. Sharkey boxing match, promoted as the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Earp was chosen as referee by the National Athletic Association the afternoon of the match after both managers refused to agree on a choice. In the eighth round of a fight dominated by Fitzsimmons, Sharkey suddenly went down, clutching his groin, yelling foul. Referee Earp conferred with both corners for a few seconds before he disqualified Fitzsimmons for a foul that virtually no one saw. Fitzsimmons went to court to attempt to stop Shakey from taking the purse, but failed when the court ruled that the match was illegal and it had no jurisdiction.
Eight years later, Dr. B. Brookes Lee was arrested in Portland, Oregon. He had been accused of treating Sharkey to make it appear that he had been fouled by Fitzsimmons. Lee said, "I fixed Sharkey up to look as if he had been fouled. How? Well, that is something I do not care to reveal, but I will assert that it was done—that is enough. There is no doubt that Fitzsimmons was entitled to the decision and did not foul Sharkey. I got $1,000 for my part in the affair."
Match fixing does not necessarily involve deliberately losing a match. Occasionally, teams have been accused of deliberately playing to a draw or a fixed score where this ensures some mutual benefit (e.g. both teams advancing to the next stage of a competition.) One of the earliest examples of this sort of match fixing in the modern era occurred in 1896 when Stoke City and Burnley intentionally drew in that year's final "test match" so as to ensure they were both in the First Division the next season. In response, the Football League expanded the divisions to 18 teams that year, thus permitting the intended victims of the fix (Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers) to remain in the First Division. The "test match" system was abandoned and replaced with automatic relegation.
A more recent example occurred in the 1982 FIFA World Cup, West Germany played Austria in the last match of group B. A West German victory by 1 or 2 goals would result in both teams advancing; any less and Germany was out; any more and Austria was out (and replaced by Algeria, who had just beaten Chile). West Germany attacked hard and scored after 10 minutes. Afterwards, the players then proceeded to just kick the ball around aimlessly for the remainder of the match. Algerian supporters were so angered that they waved banknotes at the players, while a German fan burned his German flag in disgust. By the second half, the ARD commentator Eberhard Stanjek refused any further comment on the game, while the Austrian television commentator Robert Seeger advised viewers to switch off their sets. As a result, FIFA changed its tournament scheduling for subsequent World Cups so that the final pair of matches in each group are played simultaneously.
Another example took place on the next-to-last weekend of the 1992–93 Serie A season. Milan entered their match with Brescia needing only a point to secure the title ahead of crosstown rivals Inter, while Brescia believed a point would be enough for them to avoid relegation. In a 2004 retrospective on the "dodgiest games" in football history, two British journalists said about the match, "For over 80 minutes, the two teams engaged in a shameful game of cat-and-mouse, in which the cat appeared to have fallen asleep and the mouse was on tranquilisers." Milan scored in the 82nd minute, but Brescia "mysteriously found themselves with a huge overlap" and equalised two minutes later. The 1–1 draw gave Milan their title, but in the end did not help Brescia; other results went against them and they suffered the drop.
On several occasions, "creative" use of tie-breaking rules have allegedly led teams to play less than their best.
An example occurred in the 2004 European Football Championship. Because unlike FIFA, UEFA takes the result of the game between the two tied teams (or in a three-way tie, the overall records of the games played with the teams in question only) into consideration before overall goal difference when ranking teams level on points, a situation arose in Group C where Sweden and Denmark played to a 2–2 draw, which was a sufficiently high scoreline to eliminate Italy (which had lower-scoring draws with the Swedes and Danes) regardless of Italy's result with already-eliminated Bulgaria. Although Italy beat Bulgaria by only one goal and would hypothetically have been eliminated using the FIFA tie-breaker too, some Italian fans bitterly contended that the FIFA tie-breaker would have motivated their team to play harder and deterred their Scandinavian rivals from, in their view, at the very least half-heartedly playing out the match after the score became 2–2. The exact same situation happened to Italy in 2012, leading to many pre-game complaints from Italy, who many commentators suggested were right to be concerned because of their own extensive experience in this area. But Spain-Croatia ended up 1–0, and the Italians went through.
The FIFA tie-breaker, or any goal-differential scheme, can cause problems, too. There have been incidents (especially in basketball) where players on a favored team have won the game but deliberately ensured the quoted point spread was not covered (see point shaving). Conversely, there are cases where a team not only lost (which might be honest) but lost by some large amount, perhaps to ensure a point spread was covered, or to grant some non-gambling related favor to the victor. Perhaps the most famous alleged example was the match between Argentina and Peru in the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Argentina needed a four goal victory to advance over Brazil, an enormous margin at this level of competition, especially since Argentina had a weak offense (6 goals in 5 games) and Peru a stout defence (6 goals allowed in 5 games). Yet somehow, Argentina won 6–0. Much was made over political collusion, that the Peruvian goalkeeper was born in Argentina, and that Peru was dependent on Argentinian grain shipments, but nothing was ever proven.
Although the Denmark-Sweden game above led to calls for UEFA to adopt FIFA's tiebreaking formula for future tournaments, it is not clear if this solves the problem; the Argentina-Peru game shows a possible abuse of the FIFA tie-breaker. Proponents of the UEFA tie-breaker argue that it reduces the value of blow-outs, whether these be the result of a much stronger team running up the score or an already-eliminated side allowing an unusually large number of goals. Perhaps the most infamous incident occurred in December 1983 when Spain, needing to win by eleven goals to qualify for the Euro 1984 ahead of the Netherlands, defeated Malta by a score of 12–1 on the strength of nine second half goals. Especially in international football, such lopsided results are seen as unsavoury, even if they are honest. If anything, these incidents serves as evidence that the FIFA tie-breaker can cause incentives to perpetrate a fix in some circumstances, the UEFA tie-breaker in others.
On occasion, teams tank games as a protest against actions in earlier games. The most lopsided professional football match in history, AS Adema 149–0 SO l'Emyrne, was a result of SO l'Emyrne intentionally losing the game in protest against the referee's action in a previous game.
Bookmakers in the early 21st century accept bets on a far wider range of sports-related propositions than ever before. Thus, a gambling-motivated fix might not necessarily involve any direct attempt to influence the outright result, especially in team sports where such a fix would require the co-operation (and prerequsitely, the knowledge) of many people, and/or perhaps would be more likely to arouse suspicion. Fixing the result of a more particular proposition might be seen as less likely to be noticed. For example, scandalized former National Basketball Association referee Tim Donaghy has been alleged to have perpetrated some of his fixes by calling games in such a manner as to ensure more points than expected were scored by both teams, thus affecting "over-under" bets on the games whilst also ensuring that Donaghy at least did not look to be outright biased. Also, bets are increasingly being taken on individual performances in team sporting events, which in turn has seen the rise of a phenomenon known as spot-fixing, although it is currently unlikely that enough is bet on an average player to allow someone to place a substantial wager on them without being noticed.
One such attempt was described by retired footballer Matthew Le Tissier, who in 2009 admitted that while he was playing with Southampton FC back in 1995 he tried (and failed) to kick the ball out of play right after the kick-off of a Premier League match against Wimbledon FC so that a group of associates would collect on a wager made on an early throw-in. Similarly, in 2010 Pakistani cricket players were accused of committing specific no ball penalties for the benefit of gamblers.
Whenever any serious motivation for teams to manipulate results becomes apparent to the general public, there can be a corresponding effect on betting markets as honest gamblers speculate in good faith as to the chance such a fix might be attempted. Some bettors might choose to avoid wagering on such a fixture while others will be motivated to wager on it, or alter the bet they would otherwise place. Such actions will invariably affect odds and point spreads even if there is no contact whatsoever between teams and the relevant gambling interests. The rise of betting exchanges has allowed such speculation to play out in real time.
Since gambling pre-dates recorded history it comes as little surprise that evidence of match fixing is found throughout recorded history. The ancient Olympic Games were almost constantly dealing with allegations of athletes accepting bribes to lose a competition and city-states which often tried to manipulate the outcome with large amounts of money. These activities went on despite the oath each athlete took to protect the integrity of the events and the severe punishment sometimes inflicted on those who were caught. Chariot racing was also dogged by race fixing throughout its history.
By the end of the 19th century gambling was illegal in most jurisdictions, but that did not stop its widespread practice. Boxing soon became rife with fighters "taking a dive", likely due to boxing being an sport involving individual competitors, which makes its matches much easier to fix without getting caught. Baseball also became plagued by match fixing despite efforts by the National League to stop gambling at its games. Matters finally came to a head in 1919 when eight members of the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series (see Black Sox Scandal). In an effort to restore confidence, Major League Baseball established the office of the Baseball Commissioner, and one of Kenesaw Mountain Landis's first acts was to ban all involved players for life.
MLB Rule 21 prohibits players from participating in any form of betting on baseball games, and a lifetime ban on betting on a player's own games. A poster with Rule 21 must be posted on all professional baseball clubhouses.
Yaochō (八百長?) is a Japanese word meaning a cheating activity which is committed at places where a match, fight, game, competition, or other contest, is held, where the winner and loser are decided in advance by agreement of the competitors or related people. It is believed that the word Yaocho came from the name ("Chobei") of the owner of a vegetable stand (yaoya) during the Meiji period. Created from the first syllable of Yaoya and chobei, the word yaocho was created for a nickname of Chobei. Chobei had a friend called "Isenoumi Godayu" (7th Isenoumi stablemaster) with whom he played the game Igo, who had once been a Sumo wrestler "Kashiwado Sogoro" (former shikona: "Kyonosato") and now was a "Toshiyori" (a stablemaster of Sumo). Although Chobei was a better Igo player than Isenoumi, he sometimes lost games on purpose to please Isenoumi, so that Isenoumi would continue to buy merchandise from his shop. Afterward, once people knew of his cheating, they started to use yaocho as a word meaning any decision to win/lose a match in advance by negotiation etc. with the expectation of secondary profit, even though the match seems to be held seriously and fairly.
Economists, using statistical analysis, have shown very strong evidence of bout fixing in Sumo wrestling. (See also Match-fixing in professional sumo) Most of the motive for match fixing is helping each other's ranking to keep their salary higher, according to Keisuke Itai. For example, wrestlers in Jūryō (the second tier) desperately try to avoid finishing the tournament with a losing record (7-8 or worse) and exchange or buy the match result otherwise their salary would be nothing, literally 0 yen, with the participation wage of 150,000 yen every two months if they finish the tournament with a losing record, and their ranking would go down to Makushita (third level) and only participate in seven matches, the lesser ranking from Jūryō in which you can earn 1,036,000 yen monthly with some prizes and a full 15-match tournament.
The sumo association appears to make a distinction between yaocho (the payment of money to secure a result) and koi-ni-yatta mukiryoku zumo (the deliberate performance of underpowered sumo, whereby an opponent simply lays a match down without exchange of money). The intricacies of Japanese culture, which include subordination of individual gain to the greater good, and knowing how to read a situation without the exchange of words (i.e. I know my opponent's score, he needs help and I should automatically give it to him), mean that the latter is almost readily accepted in the sumo world, and is also nigh-impossible to prove.
Influenced by baseball's experiences, the NFL and NBA have followed MLB's lead and adopted a hard line against gambling on its games, especially by those directly involved in the league. The NCAA takes an even harder line:
Each of these organizations was, and may still be influenced by fears that their games could come under the influence of gamblers in the absence of these tough measures. Critics of such hard line measures note that in spite of such policies, such influence nonetheless does occur.
When international motorcycle racing (MotoGP and World Superbike) race in the United States, the online gambling sites that advertise are prohibited from having their advertising on the motorcycles, owing to the similar hard line against gambling enforced by the majority of sports federations in the country. AMA Pro Racing (the ASN for the FIM in the United States) regulations prohibit gambling advertising and prohibit participants from betting on races.
In Britain the authorities in both government and sport have taken a softer line on gambling. Following decades of relatively lax, intermittent and ineffective enforcement of laws prohibiting gambling, sports betting was finally legalized and regulated in the 1960s. Organizations such as The Football Association seem to have taken the stance that gambling on their events is inevitable. The FA only prohibits betting on a match by those directly involved in the game in question. Footballers (or coaches, managers, etc.) are not prohibited from betting on matches that do not involve their own team.
Match fixing in football remains a major concern. In Turkey in 2011 more than 30 players and staff have been convicted of game fixing. In South Korea, more than 50 professional soccer players have been indicted and ten players have received lifetime bans. In Finland, two Zambian players were convicted and more than a dozen people are under investigation. Other investigations are continuing in China, El Salvador, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Thailand, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. In the United States and Canada, Major League Soccer and the Professional Referee Organization have a "Match Manipulation and Gambling Policy Statement" poster similar to Major League Baseball's Rule 21 posted in the locker rooms banning any betting on any match that features the MLS.
The integrity of horse racing remains an ongoing concern since gambling is an integral part of this sport. Recent allegations of race fixing have centered around the recently formed betting exchanges which unlike traditional bookmakers allow punters to lay an outcome (that is, to bet against a particular runner). Most tracks prohibit jockeys from betting on races if they are riding during the day. Leading exchange Betfair has responded to the allegations by signing Memorandums of Understanding with the Jockey Club, The FA, the International Cricket Council, the Association of Tennis Professionals and other sporting authorities. These memoranda of understanding are evidence of the vast difference between British and American attitudes — as of 2008 it would be almost unthinkable for an American sports league to sign such an agreement with a bookmaker or betting exchange.
While British football has never been rocked by match fixing allegations on the scale of the Black Sox scandal (the aforementioned incidents involved league matches, not major championships), football match-fixing has become a serious problem in parts of Continental Europe.
Cricket has been scandalized by several gambling and match fixing allegations in recent years, particularly the case of Hansie Cronje in the late 1990s, culminating in the World Cup investigations of 2007. These highly publicised enquiries were prompted by the surprise defeat of Pakistan in the Cup by Ireland and the subsequent murder investigation into the sudden death, straight after the match, of Pakistan's head coach Bob Woolmer. According to the head of the ICC's anti-corruption unit Paul Condon, cricket is the most bet on sport in the world, and fixing is found at every level of the sport and is a significant problem. The 2008 novel Raffles and the Match-Fixing Syndicate, by Adam Corres, places E.W.Hornung's A.J.Raffles, 'the gentleman thief' into the world of cricket match-fixing. This black humour comedy includes speculation on the infamous Hansie Cronje and Bob Woolmer incidents and features serious aspects of cricket gamesmanship or 'how to defeat a superior opponent without actually cheating', a vital skill in the cricketing psychology of 'thinking the batsman out'.
The high salaries of some of today's professional athletes likely serves to insulate their leagues from player-instigated match fixing. In the NCAA and in leagues where the salaries are comparatively less (or, in the case of the amateur NCAA, zero), match fixing by players remains a serious concern.
Up until the 1920s, professional wrestling was a legitimate sport. This did not endure as professional wrestling became identified with modern theatrics or admitted fakery ("kayfabe"), moving away from actual competition. The worked nature of the art have made critics consider it an illegitimate sport, particularly in comparison to boxing, amateur wrestling, and, in more recent times, mixed martial arts.
Many individuals began to doubt the legitimacy of wrestling after the retirement of Frank Gotch in 1913. As wrestling's popularity was diving around the same time that Major League Baseball had its own legitimacy issues, wrestling started to take on a more worked approach while still appearing as a legitimate sport, beginning with the Gold Dust Trio of the 1920s. Even after the formation of the National Wrestling Alliance in 1948, wrestling continued to have legitimacy issues.
Nevertheless, wrestling was still regulated by state athletic commissions in the United States well into the 1980s, until Vince McMahon, owner of the World Wrestling Federation, convinced the state of New Jersey in 1989 that wrestling was considered a form of entertainment (or sports entertainment, as McMahon used) rather than as a legitimate sport, and that it shouldn't be regulated by state athletic commissions. The move was seen as more of a relief to those who had questioned wrestling's legitimacy, since at least one major company (in this case, the WWF) was now publicly willing to admit that wrestling was staged, however the move did anger many wrestling purists.
Today, despite the staged aspects of wrestling, it is still seen as a legitimate sport in several countries, such as Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, while it is seen as a form of entertainment in the United States similar to that of the Harlem Globetrotters. Due to the lingering legitimacy issues that surrounded wrestling from the 1910s until the 1980s, gambling was generally not allowed on wrestling matches while it was still considered a legitimate sport. Despite wrestling having openly acknowledged that the results are predetermined for years, since the late 2000s gambling has increased on wrestling events, though the maximum bets are kept low due to the matches being predetermined.