Recent research has revealed that between 2016 and 2020, over 250 friendly football matches in Europe were likely to have been fixed or at the very least showed signs of suspicious activity.
The findings come from a three year study called Combating Match Fixing in Club Football Non-Competitive Friendlies that was funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme and led by the University of Nicosia Research Foundation in Cyprus.
Over 700 players in Cyprus, Greece and Malta were surveyed by the study which concluded that over 26.5% of those questioned believed that they had played in fixtures that they suspected had been fixed.
Members of the International Betting Integrity Association were also involved in the study as were EU Athletes and CIES.
Of the approaches to fix games, 26.3% were made by club officials a further 15% were made by the players themselves.
Lack Of Regulation
The illegalities have been put down to a lack of regulation surrounding friendly football matches as international and domestic football federations have not made anyone responsible for such games.
This is thought to be especially rife when matches involve teams from two different countries or when matches are played in a third country.
Worse still, some European football federations do not even pay attention to where clubs go on pre-season tours or their winter tours leaving games open to manipulation.
Many of these games will have betting markets open on them which, alongside such an unregulated situation, leaves betting operators in the likes of Curaçao and the Philippines open to corruption.
These operators are also often poorly regulated themselves and do not report signs of suspicious activity, which is almost always a licensing conditions for well regulated operators.
In order to put an end to this, the report made the following proposals.
- That UEFA enforces regulation of friendlies on all 55 of its member associations
- Match agents cannot own or control clubs, just as players agents can’t
- The formation of a body to represent match agents in future negotiations with international bodies such as FIFA and UEFA on regulation
- Establish data standards that prevent the sale of live match data to poorly and unregulated betting operators
Currently, none of the above measures are being enforced.
How It Works
Betting on friendlies is made possible when data scouts are sent to attend matches and feedback stats such as corners, cards and goals, to data companies who then forward on this information at a cost to gambling companies in real time.
With official matches, fixtures are easy to find but friendlies are not advertised in the same way, especially in Eastern Europe.
The data companies and online bookmakers are completely dependent on the integrity of these scouts, who have been known to work with clubs on planning to fix results.
Scouts cover the games so that gambling markets can open up on them and, once one bookie is accepting bets on a game, other competitors, often in Asia, will then also offer the match betting to avoid losing clients.
A case can also be made that in addition to greater regulation, friendly football matches should not be made available for betting.
Lead investigator, President of the Council University of Nicosia Professor Nicos Kartakoullis led the investigation and said’ “The combination of a lack of regulation, oversight and information makes these matches easier to manipulate than competitive matches. This research shows that in terms of governance, friendly matches need to be considered just like competitive matches.
With the data for 4,000 friendly matches being offered for betting purposes around the world each year, it is also vital that the betting companies receiving that data are operating from well-regulated jurisdictions and report suspicious betting to protect the integrity of those events.”
Every year dozens of friendly matches in Europe come under suspicion for suspicious betting activity and it is thought that the figure is rising.
The number of corrupted friendly fixtures could actually be higher than though given that some would be suspicious bets don’t trigger betting alerts as large amounts of small bets are either placed in High Street betting shops or with Asian online bookmakers.