Hill’s Number 1 Law of Match-Fixing
It is simple.
It is not about education.
It is not about morality.
It is not about culture.
Here is the key intellectual point in understanding, predicting and stopping the current wave of match-fixing cases around the world.
There are two competitive markets in current sport.
The first is the normal sports market that usually pays the players/referees very badly for doing their jobs well.
The second is the fixing market that pays the players/referees very well for doing their jobs badly.
The greater the discrepancy between these two markets; the greater the danger of fixing.
Academics often like to assign a Greek numeral for a value. (Normal people can skip over this). Let us say that Ø is the difference between the amount of money bet on a game and the relative salary of a player/referee. The higher the value of Ø, the more likely there will be fixing.
There is much to discuss around this idea. Indeed, I go on for two-hundred-and-sixty pages in the new book – The Insider’s Guide to Match-Fixing in Football – with various themes and subjects. However, to kick-off the discussion on this blog let us make the following comments:
1) There will always be ‘normal’ fixing. There has been corruption in sports since the ancient Olympics. Hill’s No. 1 Law (there are others) illustrates only the new wave of fixing where globalization has hit sports corruption.
2) There will always be idiots. There will always be a small number of athletes who no matter how much you pay them will fix. However, the key to reducing fixing is to pay the ‘normal’ athlete as fairly as possible.
3) This does not mean that it is only lower leagues that are in danger of match- fixing. If you have a league with a high-level of money in the gambling markets and players who are paid badly you have the perfect storm for fixing.
4) Of course, the biggest tournaments – like the World Cup – where there are huge amounts of betting on each game (at times in the hundreds of millions of dollars) and many players who are not paid are the perfect targets for the fixers.
5) Therefore, if you are a FIFA integrity officer your job should not only be ‘monitoring the gambling markets’ (almost impossible for a World Cup tournament – the amounts are so large) but ensuring that all the players/referees get properly paid. This – by the way – does not mean giving the money to the usual President of an African Football Association to distribute to the players (it will only end up in some dodgy account).
6) If you are in a league like Spain with a rapidly rising value of Ø – you are sailing into trouble. All of Real Madrid and Barcelona matches are massive in the gambling markets. However, they are sometimes playing teams where the players have not been paid for months. Therefore, the value of Ø will be very high for those matches. If you are a match-fixer, those are perfect opportunities. Who, after all, would suspect if a team if a poor team in Spain ‘lost’ to Real Madrid or Barcelona? The gambling market would not reflect any unusual discrepancy.
7) As always – Turkey, Italy and most Asian leagues are now dead men walking. They pay their players so badly, the gambling markets are so large and the corruption is so endemic that you cannot take their domestic football seriously.
8) The main protection of the upcoming Winter Olympics is the relative low amount of gambling on sports like bob-sledding, biathlon and figure skating. It is not because those athletes are inherently more honest than a footballer or come from countries that are more ‘honest’. Once the gambling market discovers the joys of those sports, the value of Ø will rise and there will be fixes.