17 Jul

Sports & Gambling: The Corruption of Officials

Sports and gambling go hand in hand. Aside from when your team is playing, you’re probably only interested in a game if you have money on it, or if your fantasy sports team is relying on some big performances in the game.

The professional sports leagues in America have fought hard to keep gambling from becoming legalized across the country. Right now, single game wagering is only legal in the State of Nevada. However, the sports leagues also understand that without gambling not as many people would tune in to watch the games and they would not be able to demand as much money from the television networks and from advertises. This is a necessary combination and one that everyone in the industry relies on.

With so much money being wagered on sports illegally in United States and around the world each year, there are bound to cases where illegal bookmakers and gamblers try to fix matches, earning a few bucks in the process.

One of the biggest known cases of this happening in America occurred when NBA official Tim Donaghy was betting on NBA games he was officiating, passing on gambling tips and advice to illegal gamblers and bookmakers at the same time. This happened during the 2005-2006 seasons as well as the 2006-2007 seasons. After the 2006-2007 season ended, Donaghy was charged for his crimes and removed from the NBA as an official.

It was very likely that Donaghy directly affected the outcome of many of the games he was officiating and gambling on. The easiest way for a referee to fix a game involves the total number of points scored in a game. Donaghy could call more fouls on each team, allowing a team to go to the foul line more frequently and have more chances of scoring. Another way was to call the game in favor of one team to help them have a bigger advantage. During many of the games officiated by Donaghy there was noticeable line movements on the point spreads prior to the games, and nearly every time the side that most of the money was being bet on, was the winner.

After the scandal broke many people believed it would be a severe black mark for the sport and would cause fans to turn away from the game. Those predictions turned out to be incorrect however, as the NBA continues to see its popularity soar.

Another sport that sees a continued threat of match fixing is soccer. There are so many soccer games played across all levels, including FIFA, that it’s generally accepted that it occurs in the lower levels and in far-off countries. In soccer it is very easy for a referee to fix a game. He could call penalties, even when they are not warranted. This would allow the total goals scored to go over the posted number and to help a certain team get the edge in a game.

It was reported that an exhibition match in 2010 was fixed. This game was played in the lead up to the World Cup, and was fixed by an organized crime syndicate and a corrupt official from the country of Niger. With so many referees from all over the world officiating games, soccer is easier than most sports for illegal gamblers and bookmakers to access and corrupt an official. Also, in soccer the referee has more power than in most other sports.