Betting in UK sport: match fixing

Match fixing is a practice which involves the participants in a sporting event trying to fix the result of the match they are playing in to ensure a particular outcome occurs.

Betting on sport is a huge industry in the UK with thousands of pounds wagered daily on the outcomes of various sporting events. Match fixing goes hand in hand with sports betting as the participants who decide to fix the match bet money on a particular outcome happening.

Many feel match fixing is largely confined to the amateur sporting arena; for example, it is commonly associated with amateur and illegal boxing matches. It is, however, a practice which has also crept into high profile professional sports, such as football and cricket.

What can be done to stop match fixing?

Match fixing within a specific sport is seen as an issue to be solved internally through appropriate rules and penalties drawn up by the various governing bodies.

For example, the Football Association tackled the problem of match fixing by introducing a worldwide ban on betting on football for all those involved in the game at Premier League, Football League, National League and Women’s Super League levels, as well as those at clubs in the Northern, Southern and Isthmian leagues.

These rules, introduced from 1 August 2014, apply to everyone involved in football, from the players and managers, to the match officials and club staff. Participants covered by the ban are prohibited from betting, either directly or indirectly, on any football match or competition that takes place anywhere in the world.

The passing of inside information to somebody that uses the information for betting is also prohibited.

Penalties for match fixing

One of the fundamental aspects of the sporting competition is maintaining the so-called level playing field. Accordingly, offences of match fixing, which affect this level playing field, are seen as an important a problem as that of doping and illegal drug use in the sporting context.

  • As the offence of match fixing is dealt with internally by the sport involved, it will be the sporting national governing body to hand down the penalties for the offence. Anyone found match fixing (or attempting to) in English football, for example, will receive a FA charge. If found proved, this is likely to lead to a significant suspension, and in some instances, a lifetime ban.
  • In a 2009 case involving players betting on the outcome of a Football League match, four players were found to have bet on the outcome, three from one side and one from the opposition. The FA found irregular patterns concerning the betting around this game and the four players were each handed a ban from professional football ranging from five months to a year and fines ranging from £2,000 to £5,500.
  • In 2006, four Italian football clubs were implicated in a match fixing scandal which saw one club relegated and three others deducted points.

Do bookmakers have a role to play in the policing of match fixing?

Under the Gambling Act 2005, all bookmakers are required to share information with sporting governing bodies and to alert them to suspicious betting activities surrounding sporting contests. This condition is viewed as a crucial tool in preventing and detecting betting-related fraud.

Is match fixing illegal under UK Law?

The Fraud Act 2006 adds the offence of fraud to the list of criminal offences contained within the Gambling Act 2005.

This provision will often be used to prosecute individuals involved in match fixing who are outside the scope of prosecution by the sporting governing bodies. This would include corrupt groups which run betting syndicates relying on the fixing of matches to make money.

UK anti-corruption law is designed specifically with these individuals in mind.

About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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