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The Graham Shaw column: Authorities must tackle illegal betting with Olympics looming

Former professional footballer Graham Shaw heads up national law firm GT Law’s sports management division. Graham is a qualified lawyer and former Chief Executive of Stockport County.

He made nearly 300 appearances in the Football League playing for Stoke City, Preston North End, Plymouth Argyle and Rochdale.

Now, every month, Graham shares his thoughts on topical issues in a brand new exclusive column for Total Football.

Ray Winstone’s “Alright boys” and that crazy Italian commentator show how in-play betting is the latest way to get punters to part with their money.

This is a great addition to the multitude of markets already available to anyone who likes a flutter on the footy or a tenner on the test match.

But this also raises the prospect of organised gangs making huge sums of money by being able to bet on particular events during the game. Of course it also means bets can be placed from anywhere in the world at any time.

Last month Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield admitted his involvement in a betting scam known as spot-fixing. He pleaded guilty to accepting £6k to allow a set number of runs off one of his overs in a game versus Durham last September.

Last year, three members of the Pakistan cricket team were jailed and received lengthy bans from the game after they were found guilty of spot fixing.

Ideal for this type of betting

The innocuous nature of a no-ball makes it ideal for this type of betting, which sees gamblers stake their money on things like the amount of yellow and red cards or number of corners during a football match or when a no-ball will be bowled.

The guilty Pakistan cricketers were deliberately bowling no balls and huge amounts of money were being gambled on this happening. Due to the integral nature of these events during a game, criminal gangs are able to fix this far more easily than an end result, which would usually need to involve several conspirators on the field of play.

This year’s Olympics poses a real challenge with the huge number of betting markets available. Red hot favourites in certain less glamorous events that don't make the gold medal winner a fortune, are an ideal target for criminal gangs to target as huge sums can be made if they can ensure an odds-on shot is not going to win a particular event. Either by laying him or her to lose as well as betting on much longer priced competitors.

It affects all sports with tennis player Daniel Koellerer receiving a life ban last year for match-fixing. Other higher profile examples include South Africa cricket captain Hansie Cronje admitting in 2000, that he received money from bookmakers for inside information and asking team-mates to play badly in certain matches.

In 2006, Italian football clubs Juventus, Fiorentina, Lazio and AC Milan were implicated in a match-fixing scandal that led to Juventus being relegated from Serie A and the others having points docked. Also in Italy last August, former international midfielder Cristiano Doni and other past and present players were banned for match fixing games in Serie A.


There are also investigations ongoing here in the UK over alleged betting irregularities and suspicious betting patterns in a Scottish Premier League game where Motherwell midfielder Steve Jennings was shown a red card. It is claimed that a number of online betting accounts had been opened prior to the game and wagers placed on a Motherwell player being sent off.

It’s a worldwide problem and affects all sports. It’s led to football's governing body FIFA working with Interpol to try and stop the growth of the illegal betting industry which is based mainly in SE Asia. However FIFA admits it is playing catch-up with head of security Chris Eaton saying he has credible allegations about major regional competitions and international friendlies being targeted.

One final thought is the safety of players. FIFA says it has anecdotal evidence where players have refused to get involved in illegal activity after being approached by conspirators and even killed as a result.Let’s hope the relevant authorities get a real grip of the situation before fair play in global sport becomes the exception rather than the norm.

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