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Match fixing or game fixing, in the context of organized sports, occurs when a match’s final score or result is partially or completely predetermined, in violation of the law as well as the general rules of the game. The primary motivation behind this unethical and illegal practice is to earn monetary gains from gamblers. Players have also been accused severally of deliberately playing poorly with the intention of reserving a future advantage, such as facing a weaker opponent during the play-offs, or to manipulate a handicap system. This tendency is referred to as tanking a game. In the first instance, where match results are fixed in advance so as to obtain handsome pay-offs from gamblers, the parties to the deal often engage in a series of transactions between team officials, players, bookmarkers, and referees, and often involve monetary transactions. In some occasions, authorities have unearthed such schemes by following the money trail, with detrimental effects on those found guilty, such as through relegations or prosecution by sports leagues or the law of the land. On the contrary, situations in which teams opt to lose a match for future advantages are internal decisions that cannot be easily proven (Hill, 2008). In the few reported cases where teams have been accused of this malpractice, the commonly cited tactics used, particularly by coaches, include substituting players with those that amplify the probability of losing. Coaches may purposely have their best players out of the match or use minor injuries and mishaps as excuses for substituting the best players.
There have been numerous incidences when teams and league officials have been accused of match fixing. In the year 2010, for instance, the Huffington Post reported that 17 individuals had been arrested following an investigation into a match-fixing scandal in Europe. According to the report, the probe into corruption scandals in European football led to the arrest of 15 Germans and two Swiss citizens over the fixing of over 200 matches in Europe in one of the biggest scandals of its kind, according to Union of European Football associations (UEFA), the official governing and administrative authority for football in Europe and a few Asian nations. The more than 50 raids, which were conducted by German police in Austria, Britain, Germany, and Switzerland, unearthed and seized over one million British Pounds in cash valuables. Authorities believed that the gang manipulated numerous games to profit from gambling. UEFA advocated for severe legal sanctions for any parties found guilty of the malpractice under either sports or state jurisdiction (WorldPost, 2011).
In a separate incident, in the year 2014, the New York Times expressed concern over the vulnerability of the World Cup to match-fixing. These fears were raised by the behavior observed in a soccer referee, Ibrahim Chaibou, in a World Cup qualifier match between Guatemala and South Africa. The referee called two suspicious penalty kicks for hand balls that had not touched the players’ hands. Investigations conducted by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the global administrative and governing authority of association football, revealed that the referee had earlier deposited about 100,000 US dollars in a South African bank and had been hired by a Singapore-based firm, Football 4U International, which was at the center of the international game-rigging consortium. FIFA found that these syndicates and the preferred referee fix games for financial gains from betting. Evidently, this unprofessional conduct is typical of the corruption witnessed in virtually all aspects of soccer and underscores the failures by FIFA to police itself through checks and balances as well as oversight. The report goes on to explain how the South African games were fixed (Longman, 2014).
This tendency is a common phenomenon in soccer as reported by Esctitt (2013). The author argues that soccer games numbering in the hundreds had been fixed in a global, Singapore-based betting scam. Europol, the European anti-crime unit, police forces, and national prosecutors flagged over 680 games played between 2008 and 2011 as suspicious. Similar sentiments have been raised by Dowley (2016) with regard to Italy’s scandal in 2006. Consequently, one of the teams that were found guilty of participation in the matter, which is now referred to as the calciopoli scandal, was relegated and stripped of two of its championships. The impacts of the scandal lasted for over 10 years as investigations, trials, and hearing continues periodically. According to Dowley (2016), the act was unethical and illegal on numerous fronts. Gonzalez (2017) also reported another scandal in Spain after a suspicious score in one of the matches, and investigations have since been initiated.
These cases provide proof that match-fixing is a reality, one that is unethical, illegal, and punishable by law. The involvement of authorities, intelligence agencies, and police departments into the investigations into these issues show the seriousness of the matter. Further, the numerous arrests made over the years and the punishments handed out to culpable teams and personnel show that match-fixing is not a form a deviant behavior but a crime. Match-fixing is, by its very nature, a form of corruption, which is considered as a felony. Ordinarily, all nations across the globe have laws that explicitly prohibit corruption and anyone found guilty is liable for punishment through a jail term or hefty fines. In the cases mentioned above, investigations were conducted and offenders were arrested while others were fined, such as the case of the relegation of Juventus in Italy. Corruption is a crime because it contravenes state and institutional laws and is punishable through legal avenues.
According to Krohn (2009), crime is any act that violates or breaches established laws or rules and for which a governing body can impose a conviction. It is noteworthy that while all crimes violate state or other laws, not all such infringements can be categorized as crime. The violation of civil laws or contracts, for instance, is commonly considered as an infraction or offense. The contemporary view of crime is any action that offends the state or the public, as opposed to torts, which are general offenses against individual parties and often result in civil actions. Crime is considered as such in light of the law enforcement, legal, and punitive responses of the society.
On the other hand, deviance is defined as any behavior or actions that contravene the socially expected norms and rules. Deviance does not imply nonconformity because it departs substantially from core societal expectations. The sociological view of deviance considers the social milieu as opposed to individual conduct. In this sense, therefore, deviance denotes group processes, judgments, and definitions, not the mere atypical actions of individuals. Consequently, deviance is characterized not the action itself, but by the social reactions of groups to others’ behavior. One of the primary differences between crime and deviance is the use of the threat of punishment in the former to deter any behavior that may cause harm to others. Deviant behavior, on the other hand, does not accrue any form of punishment on the person committing the unexpected act.
Match-fixing can be analyzed using the conflict theory as proposed by Karl Marx. The theory proposes that the interaction of different social classes, including groups and individuals, within the society is principally based on conflict as opposed to mutual agreement. The intrinsic conflict in societal settings helps groups to achieve unequal quantities of both material and non-material pay-offs. This conflict, therefore, results in some people being poor while others are rich (Akers, 2009). The more powerful group will ordinarily tend to use its influence and power to maintain its position while exploiting those with less power. This relationship is clearly visible in the context of match-fixing. The relationship between people who fix matches and those that gamble their money in the hope of making a financial gain is one of conflict and disproportionate competition.
According to Hill (2008), match-fixing often involves the transfer of substantial sums of money from one party to another. Undeniably, there is an imbalance between these two groups because one is clearly more powerful than the other. In the ordinary situation, both groups, the match-fixers and the gamblers, are engaged in the struggle for money. However, the excessive power and influence of the former allows them to dictate which team is supposed to win and which one will lose. Usually, these decisions are made in such a manner that the largest proportion of gamblers in stakes in those games loses its money to the match-fixers. The conflict is also depicted by the fact that those on the losing end can do nothing to reclaim their money. Indeed, their only hope is for the authorities to find out their activities and take appropriate actions. The fact that gamblers are extremely powerless makes them prone to exploitation whenever a game if fixed.
The social conflict theory argues that inequality and social classes are products of the conflict and contradictions that are inherent in social structures. Accordingly, the social society is characterized by severe conflict over scanty resources and contradictions in personal interests between different individuals and groups. In an attempt to uphold its social position, privileges, status, and power, the higher or stringer faction will go beyond its means to influence education, politics, the economy, and other institutions so as to safeguard and exclude external access to their resources and capital. On the contrary, the lower class has very different and limited interests and no particular interests, capital, or resources that they need to protect.
Their primary goal is to have a share of the capital and resources of the higher groups, such as through pushing for legal amendments (Goode, 2008). This argument is typical of the relationship between gamblers and match-fixers. People engaged in match-fixing, who typically belong to higher social classes, will do anything to protect their positions and probably go higher on the social ladder. Their desire for more money makes them go beyond the legal limits and engage in illicit acts at the expense of those to trying to make a few dollars through legal means. Evidently, this relationship is not one of consensus but of severe conflict. The role of the state and other authorities in such situations is to check the conflict and make sure that vulnerable groups do not suffer unnecessarily due to the greed of some few individuals.
Another theory that can capture the relationship between match-fixers and gamblers, and accurately explain the proliferation of this illegal act is the institutional anomie theory. Richard Rosenfeld and Stephen F. Mesner proposed the institutional anomie theory to explain the alarmingly high rates of crime in the United States. By deriving their propositions from the strain theory, Rosenfeld and Mesner argued that the prevalence of immense privileges, individualities, and liberties in the US, as well as the pursuit of the American Dream motivates the prevalence of crime in the country.
The American Dream encapsulates a set of some highly prized social and cultural conditions that all Americans aim at achieving throughout their lifetimes. Nevertheless, the country’s capitalistic economy enhances an anomic environment that results in deviant behavior and the lack of social control, particularly among people who cannot attain the desired success easily. Further, the excessive focus on the economy degrades and deemphasizes the values held by other non-economic aspects of the society, thereby creating a disproportionate balance of power, characterized by poor social checks and escalating levels of crime (Cullen, Wright, & Blevins, 2006). By and large, this theory proposes that crime is essentially engrained and incorporated into the basic social structures.
The contemporary society is primarily committed to material success in an environment that can be typified by open and personal competition. By extrapolating the theory’s tenets to the global society, it can be used to explain the increase in crimes such as match-fixing in soccer. Individuals from all over the world have been led to pursue material success and financial stability, and to believe that it is attainable irrespective of any obstacle, societal, moral, or legal. People who perpetrate this crime are willing to go beyond the legally accepted means to fulfill their desires for power, wealth, and success.
The excessive concentration on monetary accomplishment often confuses the pursuit for happiness with the accumulation of material possessions. As a result, the society tends to prioritize the financial value of their activities over the legality of the methods used to realize such success (Akers, 2009). Accordingly, team officials, players, referees, and other third parties may be too concerned about making money to conform to the societal expectations of success that they ignore the fact that making money by manipulating soccer matches is illegal.
The proliferation of incidences of match-fixing across the world points to a general breakdown in social norms, values, and controls, thereby generating higher likelihoods of crime, deviant behaviors, and the lack of morality. While this theory focused primarily to the causes of the rampant crime in the United States, it can be adopted to the societal settings of other countries due to the universality of economic needs.
As communities continue to lay more emphasis on monetary success, the societal values that are expected to foster cultural and social strength become the core motivators of increased criminal activity. It is undeniable that the football world has some of the highest flows of money as compared to other sports. As a result of the anomy created by the pursuit of success, such flows of money become a significant temptation to individuals, who would do anything possible to have a share of it.
Further, the betting industry has become a multi-billion dollar industry, with millions of dollars being moved every day. Without any form of social controls, individuals will have a higher probability of flouting the established rules to gain money and hope that they will not be caught while at it.
Additionally, Krohn (2009) argues that the capitalist, economy-centered nature of the global society and culture results in an institutional power imbalance that, subsequently, weakens the efficiency of social institutions, thereby resulting in the depreciation of social norms. Typically, the undue stress on economic success in modern societies, the existing complementary and non-economic institutions in the society, including politics, family, and education, fail to operate as they should, holistically and individually, to strike a balance between growth, societal needs, and personal advancement. Undeniable, the majority of social institutions concentrate on economic initiatives as opposed to their own goals. As a result, it becomes tempting for an individual to collude with others to manipulate and fix the results of game in the hope of a handsome monetary gain.
Akers, R. (2009). Social learning and social structure: A general theory of crime and deviance. New Brunswick N.J: Transaction Publishers.
Cullen, F., Wright, J. & Blevins, K. (2006). Taking stock: The status of criminological theory. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Dowley, C. (2016). 10 years later, match-fixing left Italy struggling. SBNation.com. Retrieved 21 April 2017, from http://www.sbnation.com/soccer/2016/7/15/12197194/calciopoli-scandal-anniversary-juventus-milan-fiorentina-napoli
Escritt, T. (2013). Hundreds Of Major Soccer Matches Fixed In Global Betting Scam. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 April 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/soccer-match-fixing-investigation-betting-scam_n_2622092.html
Gonzalez, R. (2017). Match fixing scandal hits Spain after Eldense loses to Barcelona B side 12-0. CBSSports.com. Retrieved 21 April 2017, from http://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/match-fixing-scandal-hits-spain-after-eldense-loses-to-barcelona-b-side-12-0/
Goode, E. (2008). Out of control: Assessing the general theory of crime. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Social Sciences.
Hill, D. (2008). The fix: Soccer and organized crime. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
Krohn, M. (2009). Handbook on Crime and Deviance. Dordrecht: Springer.
Longman, D. (2014). Fixed Soccer Matches Cast Shadow Over World Cup. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 21 April 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/sports/soccer/fixed-matches-cast-shadow-over-world-cup.html?smid%3D=tw-nytsports&_r=2
WorldPost. (2011). Soccer: 17 Arrests in European Match-Fixing Probe. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 April 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/20/17-arrests-in-european-ma_n_365427.html
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