How to Fix the European Championship

 

This is an article that I hate to write.

Money and Match-Fixing

I hope that fixing does not happen at the upcoming European Championship.

I hope that no teams, players or officials are involved in corruption.

However, for all the football fans that are concerned for the integrity of the beautiful game here is the blueprint of how match-fixers go about corrupting a big international football tournament.

I write this because the only way to find proof of match-fixing is to mount proper investigations. These investigations are difficult and time-consuming. Security around this year’s tournament in France is rightly dedicated to stopping terrorist attacks.

There are far fewer people trying to guard the integrity of the matches. Most of these people are scanning the betting markets to see if there are any strange odds movements. This method is almost useless in figuring out potential fixing at a major sports tournament. It is like trying to stop insider-trading by only looking at the movements of the stock price. It can give you an indication, but not legally-binding proof. So to save scarce resources, here is an outline of how match-fixing at the European Championship would work:

1) Get the tournament expanded. Increase the number of teams who can never win the tournament. Until this year the European Championships was relatively immune from the threat of corruption. There were only sixteen teams, of which twelve, given luck, might have won the whole thing. Greece’s unexpected success in 2004 showed that almost any team with a tough defence and an exceptional goal-scorer could win the six-match tournament.

Now with twenty-four teams the whole situation is different. This year, there are ten teams who have little chance of winning the tournament (betting odds of higher than 100/1). The fixers will focus on those teams.

2) The next thing a fixer needs to do is find a country where there has been lots of match-fixing in their domestic leagues. This is not difficult, in the last few years, almost every European country has faced some kind of match-fixing controversy. As a fixer you want to go to a country where corruption is so normal that many players, referees or officials will not be surprised when you approach them to fix a match. They may refuse you, but many of their colleagues think of fixing as a potential business deal rather than a betrayal of sporting ethics.

3) A fixer should also go to a place where the administration of football – either leagues or clubs – is known to be corrupt. I once spoke to a match-fixer about this issue, he said, “I will go to Turkey. There is no problem in Turkey. I can propose a deal with almost everyone there: players, coaches, referees even the team owners. Why would I work in another country when I can just make money without problems?”

The best way to propose these ‘business deals’ is to go and visit the team’s training camps several weeks before the tournament. This means that the players have not had the UEFA ‘anti-match-fixing’ education courses. There are no outside security people. You, as a fixer can speak to them without pressure.

4) Most international football teams who are open to potential fixing have ‘agents’ – people who represent them in corruption deals. They work with the fixers so that they any corrupt football officials or players have deniability. These agents protect their territory closely. Do NOT try to go behind these agent’s backs. It will cause problems. If they find out that some of the players are working with you without cutting them into the deal, it can cause major problems.

5) When speaking to the agent, potentially-corrupt officials and players make the pitch that you do not want them to fix every match. Tell them, “I understand you have to play well to impress the bigger clubs … but give us one game. If you are not going to win the tournament at least go home with lots of money in your pocket.’

6) The best games to fix are the third games of the opening round. This is a perfect opportunity. The games to focus on are the ones where a strong team has to win and the weaker team is already out of the competition. You can get the weaker team to lose and no one will suspect that the fix is on.

The Vulnerable Teams

To help focus the UEFA investigators here is a small chart that can help figure out which teams are most exposed to fixing. This is not to say that these teams will fix or that any of their players, officials or administrators are corrupt. It is just that these teams and referees from these countries are the most vulnerable to corruption.

The three variables to help identify the teams are:

Little Chance of Winning: The current bookmaker odds estimate a team’s chances of winning the tournament at greater than 100 to 1.

Major Fixing in their domestic leagues: There has been, in the last five years, a major investigation in their domestic league with dozens of games being shown to be corrupted.

Note: There is a difficulty in this variable. Russia, for example, is saturated with fixing and corruption. Strangely, however, there have been no major investigations against potential corruption in Russia.

Note: England, France, Spain and Sweden have also had cases of match-fixing. However, for various reasons, the investigations were confined to a small number of teams. Therefore, I give them a smaller mark for fixing scandals.

Systemic Sports Corruption: At either the league or team levels there has been systematic corruption in sports administration.

No.

Team

Little Chance of Winning

(odds BET365)

Major Fixing in domestic leagues

Systemic Sports Corruption

1.

Albania*

L 500/1

F

C

2.

Austria

40/1

F

3.

Belgium

– 11/1

F

4.

Croatia

– 25/1

F

C

5.

Czech

– 125/1

F

6.

England

– 17/2

f

7.

France

– 3/1 (favourites)

f

8.

Germany

– 4/1

F

9.

Hungary

L 350/1

F

10.

Iceland

L 100/1

11.

Ireland

L 150/1

12.

Italy

– 16/1

F

C

13.

Northern Ireland

L 350/1

14.

Poland

– 50/1

F

15.

Portugal

– 18/1

F

C

16.

Romania*

L 200/1

F

C

17.

Russia

– 66/1

?

C

18.

Slovakia

L 150/1

F

19.

Spain

– 5/1

f

20.

Sweden

– 100/1

f

21.

Switzerland

L 66/1

F

22.

Turkey

– 80/1

F

C

23.

Ukraine*

L 100/1

F

C

24.

Wales

L 80/1

The three teams that investigators should focus their attention on are Albania, Romania and Ukraine. This is not to say that the players, coaches or team officials from these countries are corrupt or would be open to fixing. It is just with scare resources these are reasonable places to focus.

Referees

A final note about referees.

First, 98% of the refereeing mistakes at a major tournament are exactly that – mistakes. How many readers have ever got 100% in an exam? Try writing an exam while running 8 kilometres and with tens-of-thousands of people screaming at you. Referees have a genuinely difficult job and my sympathies are with them.

However, two points: Ten years ago, both the covert transcripts of the Luciano Moggi (the corrupt Juventus boss) conversations and the interviews with Robert Hoyzer (the corrupt German referee) indicated that there may be someone inside UEFA who was open to adjusting the selection of referees. Since that date there has never been a formal investigation into this issue at UEFA.

Two, the selection of how to get to be an international referee inside a national football federation is fraught with politics and can be highly selective.

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8 thoughts on “How to Fix the European Championship”

  1. Keith Whyte says:

    I assume the same concerns apply to Copa Centenario which is being held in US right now

  2. Jessy S says:

    Going to agree with you.

    In addition, there is massive evidence that the 2014 World Cup was fixed so that Brazil would fall to Germany. Plus there was an episode of the Simpsons where Homer officiated at the World Cup including the final between Germany and Brazil. However, the actual match was in the semifinal and Germany tore through the Brazil defense by tune to a 7-1 victory as if it were a hot knife cutting through butter.

  3. Jessy S says:

    As to the previous poster’s comment, it is very possible that the Copa America match between Costa Rica and the United States was fixed so the USA would win 4-0.

  4. Declan HIll says:

    Hi Keith. Yes absolutely. This is essentially a guideline for all the big international soccer tournaments now. Sad.

    Dear Jessy. Look I never comment on specific games unless I have specific inside information. However, I can assure you that the fixers do not inform The Simpsons script-writers before they fix a match! 🙂

    Cheers to you both,

    Declan

  5. Daniel says:

    Hello Mr. Hill,

    My name is Daniel Dragomirov and I work as a odds compiler for online betting company. After I was appointed at this job 4 years ago I knew that my view about sports is going to change a little bit, because of the time that I will have to observe odds movements. I was a professional football player in Bulgaria for a while and since my teenage years I am aware about how things work in fixing matches (I’m sure you have heard about Bulgarian football league). I never took part in fixed match.

    I am curious about your opinion for the match between France and Albania two days ago.
    I have observed many matches of Albania and Albanian teams. I’ve seen cases where in 87th minute of a match with result 1-1, Over 2,5 goals is 1,87!. And the final result was 2-1!
    After Albania lost their first game against Switzerland I was convinced that Albanians were not going to fight any more in this tournament. Their second match was against the hosts and the final game against the tough Romanian team. With those circumstances I was sure that Albania will loose with 2 or more goals against France. During the whole game I had no doubts about the final result, in worst case it would be a 1-0 victory for France. And 2 late goals made my prediction true.
    I’m not saying that it was a 100% fixed match, but Albanians don’t have scruple and allowing 2 late goals would not bother them. Covering the 2 goals spread and loosing from the hosts was the perfect scenario for this match, not to attract attention.

    I would be happy to hear your point of view.

    Best regards,

    Daniel

  6. Ukraine tanked all its own matches, without scoring any goal.
    Portugal fixed all his matches of the first stage (and not only.. the one with Hungary we can see Ronaldo at 75th indicating the clock at one of his teammate).
    England-Wales was very suspected.
    Declan you know it’s 80% show-business, you are doing a lot, but you could save a lot of people who are betting and spending time on this s..t (sorry for the francesism).

  7. Declan Hill says:

    Dear Daniel.

    Drop me a line at my website and we can talk further.

    As for show-business. I don’t think every match is fixed, but I do think that with the gambling size on these matches, it is almost impossible to tell from just watching the betting odds to determine if a match was fixed.

    Cheers to you both,

    Declan

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