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A Criminals’ dream, A bookies’ nightmare

It has now become a current occurrence, every week almost, that matches are investigated thoroughly. Match reports are assessed, eagle-eyed bookmaking staff check for irregular betting patterns. This isn’t done as a priority to preserve bookmakers’ money, but to preserve football from being dragged into the innocuous world of rogues.

In a world crisis-hit by the economic recession, even professional footballers are finding it hard to pay for the luxurious lifestyle that everybody wants to lead. The desire to make a little bit of ‘easy money’ can be, to say the least, tempting. And this is why today’s’ football is today’s’ football. Most bookmakers offer odds on even the most obscure matches, such as Forest Green versus Grays, where the average takings would be between £1000 and £5000 at most, and around 500 people would be in attendance. Not likely to be fixed, you would presume?? Interestingly, this was the most recent of the betting investigations that has taken place.

With Forest Green leading at half-time through a solitary strike by Andy Mangan, things looked bleak for the Grays fans at their Recreation ground home. That was, until, two goals in the space of just fifty sharp seconds gave their side the win. Grays fans went home happy, Forest Green fans disappointed. The FA then shocked the league with the announcement that the match was to be placed under investigation, and even more so that Mangan, the league’s top-scorer, had been found guilty of earlier breaches of betting rules whilst a Bury player. William Hill and Blue Square, in particular, had noticed unusual sums of money placed on Grays to come from behind and win at half-time- odds of 22/1.

William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe told ThisIsGloucestershire, “We saw a most unusual betting pattern on this match involving a large number of requests for bets on Grays to be losing at half-time and winning at full-time. It’s always a big price for a team to be losing at half-time and to win at full-time. If you can see an explanation you adjust the odds but if can’t then you have to pull the plug on the game and report it to the Gambling Commission, which is the action we took.”

Whilst this may not have been the biggest case of betting scandals, it was more than enough to draw concern to many Non League fans, including myself, as it was later announced that up to twelve further matches would be suspiciously looked at.

Perhaps the most well-publicised case was the Italian scandal of 2006, not recognised by their governing body, but by the Police, who implicated Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Reggina, and Juventus. After some suspicious activity by several referees, and an anonymous tip-off, Police moved quickly to intercept phone calls between Luciano Moggi, the Juventus manage, and high profile Italian officials. Transcripts that were produced showed that appointments of referees were influenced towards the more favourable ones, that would give teams a bigger chance of set-piece opportunities. Suggested punishments for each club were continually argued over, but finally the Italian government settled for punishments that totalled in seventy-six points deducted, eight behind-closed-door matches, two stripped league titles, three dismissals of Europe campaigns, and £68000 in fines, as well as relegation to Serie B for Juve.

People commit these crimes not to publicly deface football, but to better their financial positions or their teams league position. However, it is still cheating. It goes on in all sports, such as the use of steroids in athletics. Athletes such as Dwain Chambers had the book thrown at them, so it is only fair that teams and individual professionals feel the same force, and hopefully make football as enjoyable as it was in the 20th century once more.

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