The country’s leading bookmakers have ceased taking bets on the man of the match award at the World Cup. Fears of a fixing scam that could cost bookies millions have risen to the surface.
It is the public that decides who the Man of the Match will be via a vote on FIFA’s website. It is because of this that bookmakers believe it is open to manipulation. News arose of tipsters putting plans into action to fix the result of the vote. Evidence was then uncovered by Sportsmail to back that claim up.
It determined that social media tipsters had been urging their many followers on how to vote. This would see them voting for players that they had placed a bet on at online sportsbooks.
From this, the Man of the Match market doubled in value last week. Despite the voting taking place through the FIFA website, the company did nothing to stop the tampering. It was also thought that some tipsters had been pushing people to break FIFA’s rules. The official website offers a single vote per person. Yet tipsters have produced videos showing followers how to register several votes each.
Professional gamblers often run tipping accounts like these ones. They usually state that they can provide advice to the casual gambler. Yet at the same time, they often look to influence the markets. That way, they can also make money for themselves. Thus, from that manipulation came a spate of unexpected Man of the Match winners.
Gareth Bale scored a late equaliser in Wales’ match against the USA in the World Cup. Despite this, many called him the worst player on the pitch for the match. A 1-1 finish to the game saw Bale receive the Man of the Match award. Former Aston Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor questioned the decision, though. He believes Bale should not have received the award, citing other players more worthy.
Then came another clanger when Kevin De Bruyne of the USA won the award. This occurred after Belgium claimed a 1-0 victory over Canada. Even De Bruyne himself said that he didn’t believe he “played a great game”. His only answer to why he received the award was due to his name.
Betting Doubles Leading to Market Being Scrapped
In the United Kingdom, betting on the Man of the Match award doubled last Thursday. The market usually saw around £100,000 a game wagered on it. Whereas last week, this reached a high of £200,000. Bookies then proceeded to slash their odds on the award, while several closed the market.
A particularly difficult moment for bookmakers came last Thursday as well. This saw Cristiano Ronaldo win the Match of the Match award after Portugal’s 3-2 win over Ghana. His penalty goal during that game made him the first player to score in five World Cups. A deserving winner of the award, no doubt. Yet due to the accumulator bets, many bookies would have been paying out big sums. Had Neymar acquired the award when Brazil won Serbia later on, it could have resulted in payouts of between £1 million and £1.5 million.
Revealed in the investigation by Sportsmail, one tipster highlighted his ability to vote. He claimed to have logged 70 votes for Neymar. Unfortunately, the voting did not go in that tipster’s favour. Double goalscorer Richarlison received the Man of the Match award instead. Neymar suffered an injury that took him off the pitch.
Yet there was enough concern raised for William Hill and Sky Bet to withdraw the market at the weekend. Bet365 took its own steps, only accepting single bets on the market. This allows it to remove the risk of suffering from successful accumulators on it.
FIFA remain aware of the problem but have done nothing to counteract it. The voting dashboard itself is not something that fans deal with. FIFA monitors this throughout matches. This is so that the results are in line with what happens out on the football pitch. It did not give any insight into whether it had overruled the vote to ensure Richarlison won over Neymar.
Changes to the Award
The Man of the Match award appears in the form of a red trophy with Budweiser written across the base. Croatia’s goalkeeper, Dominik Livaković is one of the latest recipients of it. This came about following the team’s victory over Japan. He saved three penalties in a World Cup shootout to reach that achievement. He is only the third goalkeeper to save as many penalties during a shootout.
FIFA has been stringent over the removal of the beer brand from the trophy in some instances, though. If a player from a country where alcohol is not permitted wins, then the award does not bear the brand. When Iran’s Rouzbeh Cheshmi received it after their game against Wales, the branding wasn’t there. The same occurred when Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Alowais achieved the award.
The Round of 16 is now over and the quarter finals will begin on December 9. Already in place for that are Croatia vs. Brazil and the Netherlands vs. Argentina. England will face France the following day, with the other match determined in the final round of 16s.
The final of the tournament is due to take place on December 18 at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.