By Constantinos Massonos, Contributor
One of the first and most basic theories an aspiring sport economist will come across in sport literature, is the uncertainty of outcome hypothesis which proposes that the greatest the uncertainty of a sport fixture outcome is, the greatest the interest or attendance for that fixture will be. Based on the aforementioned hypothesis, we can consider match fixing as one of, if not the biggest threat to sport and the values it holds.
Manipulating the result of a sport encounter is nothing new, games have been fixed for almost as long as sport has taken an organized form. From ancient times athletes and/or their trainers would be bribed to lose a fight or race, so the winner and his city or country would bask in the glory of his success. In the modern world, match fixing is found in almost every sport and the motives behind it are evident:
- Financial motives – people may try to make money through gambling on a fixture in which they know the outcome before it takes place because they have manipulated the result
- Sports motives – So that one of the game participants will gain an advantage, for example losing a match so you can face an easier opponent in the next round of a tournament
Globalization and the emergence of online gambling, legal and illegal, have amplified the issue by attracting the interest of organized crime, with criminals seeking to fix matches by reaching athletes, coaches and officials on a global scale, in any level of organized sport.
While the way the law handles match fixing varies from country to country, International Sports Federations are taking a collective approach that focuses on preventing, detecting and sanctioning match manipulation. To assist them, a small industry made up of organizations such as Sportradar has developed, providing monitoring and prevention services.
Athletes are in the heart of the problem, being the most common target for criminals attempting to manipulate the result of a fixture. Therefore, it is crucial for sports entities trying to fight corruption to create efficient reporting mechanisms for athletes to use. FIFPro for example, the worldwide representative organization for all professional soccer players, has developed a phone app called “red button” that allows players to anonymously report their suspicions regarding a fixed match.
But even when reporting mechanisms are in place, coming forward to disclose information requires sacrifices from athletes on many levels and might have life-altering implications for them and that’s why ongoing multi-level support is essential for those who decide to come forward.
Informing athletes about their options and rights when it comes to disclosing information and educating them on the rules of their sport in relation to betting can help their voice become even louder.
Unfortunately, the current culture about disclosing information is more likely to discourage athletes to come forward than encourage them. Steps are being taken in the right direction as described above, to shift this culture towards one that will allow more athletes to speak up, ultimately helping protect the integrity of sport.