Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Major tournaments and young female athletes are being targeted by match-fixers, while sporting bodies are failing to respond to the threat, claim Federbet in its Annual Fixed Matches report (PDF below). The anti-match-fixing organisation, which has over 400 members, found ‘almost total passivity within sport institutions’ to reports of suspicious games. It said that sporting federations failed to keep Federbet informed about the progress of any investigations, however alleged the Croatian volleyball federation (HOS) had asked it for €5,000 to help investigate Federet’s information on fixed Croatian volleyball games.
Football is not the only sport affected. Federbet said that attempts to fix tennis matches are ‘endemic’, and this is reflected in its figures. As might be expected, football tops Federbet’s of suspicious matches, with 114 games reported to the authorities. Tennis is a close second, with 63 suspicious games; followed by volleyball and basketball with 15 games apiece; table tennis (6); handball (5); hockey (3); and beach volleyball (1).
In January, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) denied that it had covered up allegations of match-fixing. Investigators involved in a 2008 probe into a 2007 Poland Open match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martín Vassallo Arguello in Sopot told a BBC and Buzzfeed investigation that tennis had failed to take action. “They could have got rid of a network of players that would have almost completely cleared the sport up”, said Mark Phillips, one of the investigators. “We gave them everything tied up with a nice pink bow on top and they took no action at all”.
Davydenko is also named as one of the players in Federbet’s list of suspicious matches. While there is no suggestion that he has done anything wrong, tennis could face further questions about why it did not further investigate matches involving him reported to it by an anti-match-fixing organisation.
It is no longer just smaller tournaments that are affected. Federbet’s report claims that FIFA World Cup qualifiers, European U21 games, UEFA’s flagship Champions League and Europa League, the FIVB beach volleyball World Tour and more have been targeted. Federbet says it has been reporting matches of FC Skënderbeu of Albania, which was sanctioned for match-fixing this month, to authorities for the last four years. ‘UEFA opens a formal investigation only at the end of May’, laments the report. ‘The passive response of national sport institutions clearly enables further match-fixing attempts’.
In sports other than football, it appears that match-fixers are targeting female athletes, which are vulnerable to match-fixing attempts due to low pay, poor education on suspicious approaches and a lack of control from the sporting authorities – an issue previously highlighted by The Sports Integrity Initiative. ‘In a majority of cases, the protagonists were young and female athletes’, reads the report. ‘Non-existent controls, a low level of education and absent or low remunerations are the ingredients that make match-fixing extremely tempting in youth and women’s championships […] In women’s sports, we found some suspicious matches in the Russian handball league and in tennis especially, as athletes are often very young and impressionable.’
Other specific issues identified were as follows:
• Teams and players that have been investigated in the past have not been thoroughly investigated or penalised – many are still playing;
• 16 May: the ‘perfect’ fixed match takes place between Nei Mongol Zhongyou and Meizhou Wuhua in China;
• Other suspicious games discovered involving Chinese-owned teams, such as Pavia (Italy) and Oriental (Portugal).
• A trend in tennis to fix games to finish 40/40;
• Suspicious table tennis match in the Olympic qualifying tournament involving Stanislav Golovanov, who had been involved in a suspicious match in the Austrian Bundesliga.
However, Federbet also reported that some countries are responding to the problem:
• the Ukrainian Parliament has approved a new match-fixing law;
• Italy has developed a plan for monitoring, training and prevention of match-fixing, especially targeting Serie B, which has been affected by match-fixing;
• the Latvian Basketball League’s Real Games initiative, an Erasmus project, attempts to tackle match-fixing;
• Spain’s La Liga has begun monitoring third division games.