Match-fixing prominent in friendly football matches due to lack of regulation

By Peter Lynch

More than 250 friendly football matches involving European clubs showed signs of suspicious activity during 2016-2020, according to new research.

The findings are from a three-year study funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme and led by the University of Nicosia Research Foundation. It claims that, due to a lack of regulation, match-fixing is prominent in friendly football matches.

The survey involved 700 players in Cyprus, Greece and Malta, and found that 26.5% of players had played in a friendly match they suspected had been manipulated. A total of 26.3% of approaches to fix a match were made by club officials, with 15% made by other players.

Club officials meanwhile were instigators in 19% of approaches to manipulate matches, and were the main beneficiaries in 26.3% of approaches.

The study found that national and international football federations have been slow in establishing where responsibility lies for such matches, particularly when clubs from different countries play in a third country. 

This lack of regulation, together with the availability of such games on global betting markets, with poorly or unregulated betting operators, leave the games at greater risk of potential match-fixing. Poorly and unregulated betting operators rarely report signs of suspicious activity, which is often a licensing requirement for regulated operators.

“The combination of a lack of regulation, oversight and information makes these matches easier to manipulate than competitive matches,” said Lead investigator, Professor Nicos Kartakoullis, President of the Council, University of Nicosia.

“This research shows that in terms of governance, friendly matches need to be considered just like competitive matches.

“With the data for 4,000 friendly matches being offered for betting purposes around the world each year, it is also vital that the betting companies receiving that data are operating from well-regulated jurisdictions and report suspicious betting to protect the integrity of those events.”

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