The football world again hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons last night and this morning, with match fixing allegations and arrests following some great investigative work from The Telegraph.
Focussing on lower leagues but seemingly quite clear that matches and scores can be fixed, and that players are involved and making money from it. It would seem to me to be quite hard to predict scores and goals as that has to involve more than one player and will always be subject to risk that a player or official who does not know what is happening may make a different decision.
Now I enjoy some small bets on football, and even last night had a bet on 5 or more goals in the Man Utd game in the Champions League. Man Utd won with 5, so I was a winner. I would doubt very much there was any fixing there as to manage that would have to involve pretty much every person on the pitch, but there is an element that I feel is not being looked at as much by either the football authorities or the legal ones.
To fix an exact score is hard, multiple players have to be involved, and more than likely an official or two as well, and the cost to the fixer in something like the Premier League or Champions League would be huge with the obvious added risks of more people being involved.
However, there are many other ways of winning at gambling, and while all not as obvious as a 5-0 win, can be far more profitable.
Almost every sporting event on commercial TV has each advert break rammed with adverts to get betting, something I have written about before. Like then I am not asking for gambling to be banned, but it is the "new" styles of betting that open up a far more lucrative way of making money, and becomes far harder to find and prove. Betting on anything at all is possible in football, from novelty bets like which manager is going to get sacked next to how many corners there will be in a game.
How many corners in a game, who would bet on that? Well obviously enough people for there to be a market for it, and it is one example where one player can actually influence it, by making sure he kicks the ball out for a corner as often as he can. Remember it only needs to be one above the average to get paid, so is not as obvious as it seems.
Time of first booking, betting on a sending off or not, betting on a missed penalty and so on. The sheer number of incidents that a player can influence is quite staggering, and also the ref could be independently implicated, an innocuous looking red card, a harsh foul only getting a yellow. Put it down to a bad day? A bet on a red card in a game will often be about 5-1, not a bad return if you know 100% it is going to happen is it?
Look at any weekend of top flight games, how many free kicks skyed over the bar into row z, how many bookings given in odd circumstances, how many throw ins from misplaced passes. It seems impossible and improbable, but when you look at the money involved it seems impossible to me to believe that there isn't some level of corruption in all levels of football.
Obviously the review shows and discussions about the decisions are a big part of the weekend, looking at all the incidents from multiple angles, did a player dive, was he really hit in the face, how bad was that pass are all analysed by multiple panels, so surely any obvious incident would be picked up by the panel?
I wonder how some of those discussions at the weekend will go when they involve the ex player and now pundit Matthew Le Tissier. Model professional, played a one club almost exclusively and scored some amazing goals in his time. What seems to have been almost totally ignored is that he has openly admitted being involved in match fixing, and nothing at all was done about it. The police decided it was not a good use or resource, and it was a while ago, so why bother...
The story is linked here, and what it does show, like Roy Keane admitting he went into a tackle with the intention of harming a fellow player, is that he just laughs it off as a funny anecdote in his book. This is where the FA and all the governing bodies are to blame and at fault.
OK, Southampton v Wimbledon was never the high point of football, but this was a top flight player in a top flight game. A man earning even then what would have been an incredibly good living, but felt able to try and fix a bet for "some friends" and then makes a joke about being knee capped.
I have no idea or evidence at all to indicate that he ever did anything similar before or after that, but when he comments at the weekend on a poor cross that goes out for a throw in, does he wonder who bet on that happening....