There are countless steps that must go perfectly according to plan, if one is to successfully ‘fix’ a sporting match.
In that respect, match fixing is an art form. To fix an organised sports match, beautiful and unpredictable as they are, without raising any suspicion from fans, officials or the media, takes some serious doing.
As any TV viewer knows, sport and gambling are intricately linked, and have been since the dawn of time. Whether we’re talking about the Gladiatorial battles of Ancient Rome, or Civil War-era cock fighting, there’s no doubt that some blokes were taking bets on the side.
But what is it that possesses athletes – those at the true coal-face of sport – to take this risk, when their entire livelihood is at stake? Especially when there are so many examples of match fixing being exposed, in turn ruining lives and careers?
Money cannot be the only driver for match fixers. Sure, for the peripheral figures – I’m talking guys like Lou Vincent, or Ryan Tandy, who essentially acted under influence (duress?) from more powerful, shadier entities – the prospect of a bit of coin on the side may have seemed a no-brainer. For Tandy, it’s telling that he was convicted of conspiring to obtain financial advantage for others.
With any fix, there are just so many variables. Usually, a shady figure will approach a player or players, with a proposal. This player will then normally be trusted to recruit others (usually teammates, but perhaps sometimes opponents) into the fix. The obvious risk to the ringleader, on this side, is that some players will report the incident to the authorities.
Even if the players remain silent and the fix goes ahead, there’s still several major hurdles to content with. For example, the odds for a certain outcome drop suddenly; betting markets are flooded and suspicion is immediately aroused.
And thirdly, it must be difficult for players to ‘act’ out this fix scenario on-field. If you’re charged with getting out for less than 10 runs, or double-faulting a certain number of times, how do you do it convincingly? Tandy’s early-game penalty just looked silly; it looked dodgy.
I’m positive that since sport entered the professional era, there have been thousands of examples of match fixing that we don’t even know about. Just based on the inherent variables involved in pulling off such a heist, I’m not at all surprised that tennis – a single player sport, thereby requiring less risk in terms of convincing others to take part in the fix – has been finger-pointed.
So what to make of all this? Probably not much, other than a) individual sports are surely the most ‘at risk’ sports for match fixing; and b) any athlete who can orchestrate a team sport fix without arousing suspicion is most probably a psychopath with some pretty tidy blackmailing skills.
By Dave Edwards