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How to repair the damage of match fixing

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David Bond | 18:47 UK time, Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Delhi. Cricket is an obsession here - a way of life. Unfortunately for administrators and politicians anxious to tackle the problem of match fixing, so is illegal betting on it.

The case against the three Pakistan players accused of bowling deliberate no-balls in the fourth Test against England is still under investigation. But what is beyond doubt is that the affair has its roots in the illegal, shady world of Indian betting.

Over the last few days I have been looking into the problem, trying to get an idea of just how widespread it is and why money being wagered in Delhi could possibly influence the outcome of matches played many thousands of miles from here.

After a few calls via two local journalists, my crew and I arrange to talk to a bookmaker. Having recently been released from jail after serving time for firearms offences, he is suspicious and refuses, at first, to meet in a public place.

He then changes his mind and agrees to meet in a restaurant in a shopping mall on the eastern part of the city, not far from the Commonwealth Games athletes' village.

But as we are waiting for him, he changes his mind again and asks instead to meet in the apartment of one of the local journalists.

We drive to an area known as Vishwas Nagar, one of the rougher parts of town, where we are taken up to meet the bookmaker. He refuses to give his name and won't speak on camera without a black scarf covering his face.

As we sip hot, sweet Masala chai served with biscuits, the atmosphere becomes more relaxed and once he is reassured that we will not reveal his identity he starts to open up. Before saying a word, he takes a bag from the table and sets out in front of him 13 mobile phones and a larger, white, landline phone. These are the tools of his trade.

He tells me the bigger phone is used to receive - note, not to make - calls from a more senior bookmaker higher up the chain in Delhi. They in turn receive the "rates" from bookmakers in Jaipur and India's financial capital Mumbai.

Those odds, he says, have been received from the most senior bookmaker in the chain, based in Dubai. He sets those odds after consulting the websites of legitimate betting companies in London.

While no online betting exists in India, the growth of the internet here has allowed punters and bookmakers in the system to cross reference their odds with those being offered by web companies.

His remarks confirm what other sources have also told us about the international nature of the operation.

Then he uses the mobile phones to take bets from his customers, or "punters".

The more money you have and the better your connections, the greater the range of bets available. For example, it is possible to bet on scores made by individual batsmen, how many runs will be scored off a particular over, no-balls and so on.

But the two most common bets are on the results of matches and what is known as session betting.

Depending on the form of cricket being played sessions can last between 10 and 20 overs. The trick is to predict to the nearest run how many runs will be scored in each session.

If the punter is under he owes the bookmaker a certain amount for every run under the session total he sets. If the punter gets it right, then the bookmaker pays him.

This is an area thought to be vulnerable to fixing because although single sessions may not influence the overall outcome of a match, both batsmen and bowlers could manipulate run rates or other events on the pitch - such as no-balls - to ensure certain 'fixed' totals are reached.

Our bookmaker says the minimum bet on the result of a match is £350 while to bet on a session costs a minimum of £70. This does not seem a lot until one considers a third of India's population lives below the poverty line, according to government figures.

He goes on to reveal how he takes bets on all matches that are televised - not just Indian matches or big internationals but domestic county matches in England and elsewhere around the world.

He makes the outlandish claim that many matches, if not all, are fixed. He says that even if they are not in on it the bookmakers can tell when games are being fixed by reading the odds - which fluctuate minute by minute.

This bookmaker made no grand claims on match fixing. In many ways, he is a small cog in a far greater wheel. But in just a few days here I spoke to enough people to realise the roots of gambling run extremely deep.

Mohammad Amir at the Pakistan High Commission, London, 2 September 2010

Mohammad Amir is one of three players at the centre of the match fixing storm. Photo: AFP

So how do the authorities deal with this problem? And is it correct to assume that just because it is illegal to bet in India, it is undermining the worldwide integrity of a sport?

After all, if the players are not corrupt, then people betting on the telephone in Delhi or Jaipur cannot possibly influence matters on the pitch in north London.

But there does seem to be a reluctance here to accept that illegal betting could be part of the problem.

On Monday, Sports and Olympics minister Hugh Robertson, out here for the Commonweath Games, attempted to raise the issue at a meeting of fellow Commonwealth sports ministers.

In the end, the subject was considered too sensitive for it to be raised directly. Officials warned that the move would backfire and could even lead to Pakistan's sports minister walking out of the meeting.

A compromise was then agreed, with the World Anti-Doping Agency announcing it would branch out into the fight against corruption by producing a report on gambling in time for the next meeting in London in 2012.

That is an awfully long way off but such are the sensitivities around this issue on the subcontinent that Robertson and his allies in Australia may have to play the long game.

Robertson told the BBC in an interview that persuading the Indian government to legalise gambling could be a step in the right direction but he accepted there was opposition in India to such a move. Even a crackdown on the bookmakers might drive it further underground.

But even if it was legalised, would that solve the problem? It might make it easier to follow suspicious betting patterns and to investigate anyone trying to manipulate matches but there have been cases of fixing in many sports involving unsuspecting legal betting operators.

Robertson revealed he also met the president of the International Cricket Council Sharad Pawar, a former head of the Indian cricket board (BCCI) and an influential minister in the country's government. Pawar told Robertson that a more effective approach in India and the rest of the subcontinent could be to hit the players who get involved with fixers with life bans.

That would be desperately harsh on young players such as Mohammad Amir, who at 18 could have his career ended before it has even started, although he maintains his innocence and is contesting the charges against him.

However, the ICC believes sending a strong message is the only way.

The exact connection between gambling in India and corruption in cricket remains uncertain.

But from speaking to people here over the past few days what is clear is a growing cynicism about the sport. And the minute people lose faith in what they are seeing, I'm afraid the game is up.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    If betting is the only core reason behind fixing then we should find out who are the main culprits from higher level. I will not be surprised to see if the media multi-billion deals for the coverage is not won by this illegal system.

    There are too many issues to tackle within this problem of fixing. But I feel that we need to start from somewhere. I still feel that News of the World framed these Pakistani cricketers but why they became victims. The only answer I can think of that they must have done it before or someone from them do it on regular basis.

    If proven guilty their punishment should be made example to others who might be vulnerable to this hideous crime or they might already be part of it.

    We need a solution and I believe every problem has a solution.

  • Comment number 2.

    "I still feel that News of the World framed these Pakistani cricketers .."

    It's this level of rediculous denial that's at the heart of the problem.

    The poster goes on to declare "..every problem has a solution". Yep, and the solution doesn't always fix the problem. With attitudes like the above you can pretty much predict that will be the case.

  • Comment number 3.

    ROFL!! here we go again.... very conveniently its India's fault, inspite of having one of the biggest gambling industry in the UK, with television adverts asking people to bet on the "highest scorer", "next goal", "number of corners" (that too in a dodgy London accent).

    You say - "The exact connection between gambling in India and corruption in cricket remains uncertain." (!)

    So you are talking out of your backside and should apologise for false allegations without any evidence.

    You journos are a joke!

  • Comment number 4.

    Beg to differ on this one Bond!
    No doubt on betting playing a big part from the sub continent which is damaging the 'gentlemen's game', however stating the blog with 'David Bond assesses the shady world of Indian betting' is a bit harsh. It has been projected as if India is the leading all of the world's betting market.
    If you take a closer look then you wouldn't be surprised to see that numerous betting deals take place in Dubai. Would request you to please explore the same :)

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Betting globally is an obsession just the subcontinents focus on cricket is overshadowing the game itself. Betting is one thing bribing players is another thing altogether. Be clear this is a world wide problem in sport generally.

    The IPL is a cricketing juggernaut and an example of a betting addicts dream, influencing match events can result in a significant financial gain / loss. Unfortunately with an unregulated market there is little or no control.

    Players should be aware that their livelihoods are at stake if they participate in a corrupt act (just like drug taking) - end of story otherwise the disease will spread.

  • Comment number 7.

    billion_plus

    I can see your arguement that there is no DIRECT evidence that it is illegal bookmakes on the subcontinent that are behind potential match fixing in cricket. I take the point that legitimate UK bookmakes could be involved also. the UK is not innocnet. We've had betting scandals in football before, including recently where players would bet on the time of the first throw in and kick the ball directly out of play (although these 'fixes' were entirely for personal gain, i.e. without the collusion of bookmakers, and have been largely eradicated by banning players from betting on matches with penaties dished out for those who are caught).

    However, there are several issues which suggest that it's the illegal bookmakers who are a root cause.

    Firstly, these guys are already criminals, operating outside the law. The bookie which Mr. Bond spoke to has been jailed for firearms offences. They are hardly morally upstanding pillors of society and it's much easier to believe that such a person could be involved in match fixing that an UK bookmaker whose business is regulated and legitimate.

    Secondly, in the UK betting on cricket is a tiny proportion of a bookmakers activity - most of their income is from horse racing or football. Why risk all that for the tiny gain you would get by, for example, persuading Pakistan to lose to Bangladesh, or to score less than 80 runs in a session.

    Thirdly the enquiries into match fixing in the late 1990s (Hansie Cronje etc.) all centred around Indian os subcontinent bookmakers and fixers and so there is a track record there.

    Gievn the above I'd say it's naive to think that the unregulated, underground gambling industry which sees millions of dollars placed on cricket is entirely innocent.

    The solution? As David Bond says without the collusion of the players then match fixing cannot be successful and so IF found guilty of deliberately not performing to the best of their abilities then players should be served with life bans.

  • Comment number 8.

    I don't know why some of you are so applaud by the assumption that India is at the forefront of match fixing!

    Look at the admitted evidence of bookmakers and players:

    Hansie Cronje - yes most of the accusations came from South African bookmaker but where did it all start? India. Where did the South African bookmaker place his bets and make his money? ... India.

    (So first case South Africa 1, India 1)

    Pakistan Team - an English bookmaker influencing team members. where did the Englishman bookmaker place his bets and make his money? ... INDIA.

    (So second case England 1, India 1)

    The rest of the cricketing world can not say they are clean and India are the bad ones, but India (and some of these bloggers) cannot say that they dont have the biggest part to play because for some reason these problems always ends up stemming from India.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think this article shows that illegal betting occurs in Indian. Wow, I didn't know that! It doesnt really show any link to match fixing (as your blog suggests), and it doesnt show how to repair match fixing, as your title suggests.
    There is a huge difference between illegal bookmaking and match fixing - also it assumes that the match fixing is completed by the book makers, when it can as easily be done by the rich punters.

    I also think that the NOTW story has been over hyped, I think if you do enough research on the journo and his accuracy rates you can make your own judgement - though of course there has to be some element of truth and the fixer is the main culprit, rather than the young cricketers.

    The solution, head for the big cheeses, forfeit suspected matches (so all bets are off), have an amnesty with all players, agents and coaching staff. Have one (major) warning and then life ban for all players, and have immediate life bans for coaching staff and agents if found to be breaking the rules. And most importantly, have an education program to the players and staff about what is allowed and what is not - this may sound simple, but if your 18 yrs old and someone senior tells you to do something, unless you know its wrong, then you will do it.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Why are people jumping up and down here when people say that matchfixign has strong roots in the subcontinent. Yes, it's evident everywhere, but this attitude of "we're not the only ones so don't blame us" is a real problem. Like with Butt - his initial reaction was to counter-accuse the English team with no evidence. His retraction was too late - we see the bigger picture; he's not prepared to put his own house in order because problems exist in other parts of the world too.

    So what do we do? Cut it off at the source. Professional sportsman guilty of fixing games should be banned from ALL professional sport (never allowed to make money from it again) and potentially face jailtime. Whether people like it or not sport is a main global institution and is of huge economic importance and any effort to undermine it should be dealt with severely. If Amir is guilty, then it is no shame his career is curtailed - hopefully he's innocent becaue he's precocious - but if guilty I'll try and forget about him like I've tried to forget about Dwayne Chambers, Hansie Cronje and all other cheats who had a job and a talent I'd give my right arm for and lost their heads.

    Rant over.

  • Comment number 12.

    "I still feel that News of the World framed these Pakistani cricketers..."

    This sort of blinkered denial is a major part of the problem.

    I've no doubt there are people in other parts of the world who are involved in match-fixing, but the sub-continent needs to stop kicking up a fuss whenever a reasonable accusation is pointed in their direction and, instead of blaming everybody else, investigate it thoroughly and deal with it.

    The only way to eradicate this problem is to aggressively pursue all guilty parties - both dodgy bookmakers at one end of the chain and bent players at the other end.

    The penalties for anyone found guilty must be severe is sport is serious about ensuring it is clean. Granted, the pursuit of dodgy bookmakers must largely be left to the police as sports administrators do not have control over them.

    But the players do fall under the administrators remit. Any player found guilty should receive a life ban. It doesn't matter how good they are or how young they are. A precedent must be set. And life should mean life - none of the bizarre 'life bans' Pakistan are so fond of that are then revoked after a few months!

    That would make players think twice about throwing a match.

  • Comment number 13.

    Most of the cricket corruption happens in UK since betting is legal ...

  • Comment number 14.

    Most of the cricket corruption happens in UK since betting is legal ...

    with high tax rate etc how do you know there are not illegal betting happening in UK like that English guy who was caught ?

  • Comment number 15.

    @14.BakedBeans wrote:
    Most of the cricket corruption happens in UK since betting is legal ...

    with high tax rate etc how do you know there are not illegal betting happening in UK like that English guy who was caught ?

    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    You're absolutely right there may be and it needs to be stamped out. But this is shifting the blame.

    Evidence seems to point to illegal betting happening on quite a large scale in India and Pakistan. So rather than asking how I know there's no illegal betting in the UK(wehich I;m sure there is) why not try and address the problem that the evidence points to?

  • Comment number 16.

    #13 and #14

    Where is your evidence for such a statement? Its about time Indian cricket and its supporters take things on the chin a bit more without bridling against negativity all the time. Acceptance of a problem is the first step towards trying to resolve it. Clearly there are cheats in England too, but saying that most of the corruption in cricket occurs in the UK is unsubstantiated, and ignores the problems in India and Pakistan by trying to make someone else look bad instead. Less jingoism and more honesty about the issues would make a nice change.

  • Comment number 17.

    Every nationality will try to blame anyone else but themselves, this ISN'T new, this kind of childlike pettiness has been going on for millennia and will carry on for just as long.

    Action is what's needed, regardless of who's to blame and it needs to be done ASAP, not looked into in a couple of years, you'd think that those in charge of sport were somehow part of the problem the way they keep dithering and failing to act.

    Offer an immediate amnesty for anyone who comes forwards and tells the truth about fixing in any sport, but at the same time only have this amnesty for a few months and tell EVERYONE that once it's over, anyone caught fixing in any way will get an automatic lifetime ban and be sued for any and every penny they have, even if this means introducing new anti-corruption laws.

  • Comment number 18.

    Some very strange comments here. Personally, I think the article does exactly what it says on the tin, and it is a worthwhile addition to this ongoing discussion.

    #3, billion_plus. The article is about Indian gambling (though obviously not all of the wagers come from within India) so it is therefore hardly surprising that this is where the focus lies. The article doesn't state that no other country is to blame.

    It is worth bearing in mind though, that gambling in India is a bit dodgy by definition. Because it's illegal. This isn't rocket science. This also means that your comparisons between the UK gambling industry and India's are completely worthless. The vast majority of the UK gambling industry is heavily regulated - the size here is irrelevant. There is obviously the odd bit of 'black market' gambling, but this is a miniscule % of all stakes laid.

    #13 & 14, BakedBeans, sorry fella, but that is one of the most ridiculous comments I've read. The fact that UK bookmakers ply their trade legally means that it is in their interests to be transparent with the authorities. What it also means is that it is actually the bookmakers who frequently are first to sound the alarms about possible match-fixing or corruption because they monitor the betting patterns so closely. There have been recent examples of this in tennis, betting and snooker. The fact that gambling is legal in this country actually helps to prevent corruption in sport. Could an Indian bookmaker ever report suspicious betting patterns to the police? Didn't think so.

    So, no country is perfect, but some countries have legislation that makes it easier for them to police corruption in sport.

  • Comment number 19.

    threatning players with bans will not work as the people at the top will threaten their lives so fixing will remain the more attractive option, even with the chance of being banned for life. the man at the very top, daud ibrahim, is a household name in every house in india and pakistan as well as asian homes in the uk. he has extensive connections in dubai, africa, pakistan (where he currently resides) and the uk and of course his native india. even if this guy and his organisation could be removed, what is to stop another group entering the fray? i doubt it will be possible to stop his gang, it is large, well connected and very very ruthless. remember he is wanted by governments and they cant get him, what chance do sports authorities have of stopping him? this is a conundrum that will need some working out, it is not about identifying the issue and simply putting it right, sport needs to change the mindset of asian govts (which are equally corrupt) and people. it is a long hard battle that must be fought in order to protect the integrity of this great british game!

  • Comment number 20.

    Wow! What a fantastic display of Test cricket it was in Mohali!

    Thank you so much Indian bookies for fixing it! -;)-;)

  • Comment number 21.

    I think the author is mixing up two issues. Match fixing, spot fixing etc through collusion with the player is a different kettle of fish to gambling.

    Even where gambling is legal, a bookie can always collude with the player and then offer very high odds knowing fully well that they will rake in the cash. So how can one say that fixing happens because of illegal betting? This sort of argument defies logic!

    Arguing for betting to be made legal in India without understanding its social, economical and political landscape clearly shows that the author knows nothing about India.

    Large masses of people are illiterate in India and if such people are given easy access to betting, alcohol etc. they will fritter away the money without supporting their family. Unless the majority of the population is educated and can make informed decisions for themselves, the environment has to be controlled to restrict easy access to things such as gambling.

  • Comment number 22.

    The best way of stopping cricket match fixing is to just ignore it.

    The acceptance of money by players for information, forecasts or for losing matches should be just accepted and ignored.

    Yes indeed ignore match-fixing and stop wasting police time and resources.

    If it is recognised that the outcome of a match could be a function of not just the toss, the weather or the relative skills of the players, spot betting and match outcome betting will quickly dry up, soon followed by bribes to players and the temptation to throw matches or bowl no balls or miss the stumps.

    Whilst I was an undergraduate studying Probability I worked on Saturdays in a betting shop. I was wisely advised by the "turf accountant" never to bet on anything that could speak.

    The moral is:

    Don't bet on anything where the result can be managed by someone. Unless of course that someone is yourself.

    And as for cricket match-fixing,

    1) generate / maintain uncertainty in the match outcome and let it be assumed that the matches are fixed

    2) nobody will bet if they believe in the possibility that matches are fixed against them

    3) if nobody bets nobody will bribe players to fix matches

    4) if there are no bribes then there will be no matches fixed.

    5) problem solved by ignoring match-fixing and not by dealing with it.


    .......... Warren EDWARDES ............

    source: my blog http://goo.gl/Bzqz

  • Comment number 23.

    To be honest the article doesn't tell us anything we didn't know. There is no particular link between match fixing and ILLEGAL gambling, rather than gambling in general, although I guess if you're a legal bookmaker and get "stung" it's easier to get the authorities to do something about it.

    What I've never really understood is how it is possible to win the kind of money necessary to make fixing worthwhile. Surely ANY bookmaker,legal or otherwise, is going to smell a rat if somebody bets £100,000 on the third ball of the second over (or whatever) being a no-ball.

    And Mr Edwards, anyone with any sense knows gambling is a mugs' game, but that has never stopped people doing and never will.

  • Comment number 24.

    Its not just Mr Bond who is suggesting that the illegal betting market in India can be the root cause of match fixing. It is also admitted by Indian media and especially the Bollywood movies.

    I could even name few movies e.g. Ghulam, Shikhar, there are 100's.

    So the people who denies this I don't know what world they are living in.

  • Comment number 25.

    Dont know - somehow the title of this article conjured up a vision of a billion Indians - all frantically trying to bet surreptitiously...

  • Comment number 26.

    It isn't just legalising gambling but state controlled gambling that is the answer; to this and many other issues effecting sport such as funding. I'm just back from the races in Paris, the French model seems to work pretty well and to the benefit of all. You will never completely stop cheating and fixing but a tote/pmu monopoly system certainly would reduce the scope.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm not interested in betting, neither in how it works, nor whether it is legal or illegal. I'm interested in cricket and I want every game to be a fair game, played to the utmost by every player, within the rules. - It therefore strikes me that if the players are honest, no irregular practices can occur.

    That's probably naive, but it's up to the various governing authorities to ensure that the sport is kept clean and if draconian measures are necessary to deter would-be offenders, then so be it.

  • Comment number 28.

    Well what happened in John Higgins (Snooker) case. Everyone knows he is guilty but they were not able to do anything about it.

    He is not from the subcontinent and correct me if I am wrong he is from UK. There were few others who were involved too. Trust me this problem is not just in India or Pakistan but definitely in other places too.

  • Comment number 29.

    #24

    Wow thats amazing logic! So anything that is shown on Bollywood movies is real. The question needs to be asked to you - which world are you living in? Obviously an imaginary world of dreams!!

  • Comment number 30.

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