Match fixing or game fixing in organized sports occurs when a match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result. Where the sporting competition in question is a race then the incident will be referred to as race fixing. Games that are deliberately lost are sometimes called thrown games.
Match fixing is often motivated by agreements with gamblers. But this is not always the case - in the NHL and NBA, teams near the bottom of the standings have sometimes been accused of throwing games at the end of the season to finish with the worst record in the league - thereby gaining the first draft pick. To deter this, these leagues now use a draft lottery which does not guarantee the first pick to the team at the bottom of the standings (the NFL also conducts a draft, but does not make use of a lottery).
In the NBA (but not in the NHL), there have also been allegations of teams throwing games in order to finish in sixth rather than fifth place in the conference standings, thus enabling the team in question to evade a possible playoff match with the conference's top seed until the final round of playoffs in that conference (for more details see single-elimination tournament).
In the past, some NFL teams have been accused of throwing games in order to obtain a more favourable schedule the following season; this was especially true between 1977 and 1993, when a team finishing last in a five-team division would get to play five of its eight non-division matches the next season against other last-place teams. On occasion, an NFL team has also been accused of throwing its final regular-season game in an attempt to "choose" its possible opponent in the subsequent playoffs; perhaps the most notable example of this was when the San Francisco 49ers lost their regular-season finale in 1988 to the Los Angeles Rams, thereby keeping the New York Giants (who had defeated the 49ers in the playoffs in both 1985 and 1986, also injuring 49er quarterback Joe Montana in the latter year's game) from qualifying for the postseason; after the game, Giants quarterback Phil Simms angrily accused the 49ers of "laying down like dogs."
When a team intentionally loses a game to obtain a perceived future competitive advantage rather than gamblers being involved, the team is often said to have tanked the game instead of having thrown it. Often, substitutions made by the coach designed to deliberately increase the team's chances of losing (frequently by having one or more key players sit out, often using minimal or phantom injuries as a public excuse for doing this), rather than ordering the players actually on the field to intentionally underperform, were cited as the main factor in cases where tanking has been alleged.
In addition to the match fixing that is committed by players, coaches and/or team officials, it is not unheard of to have results manipulated by corrupt referees.
Match fixing does not necessarily involve deliberately losing a match. Occasionally, teams have been accused of deliberately playing to a draw where the draw ensures some mutual benefit (e.g. both teams advancing to the next stage of a competition.) There have also been incidents (especially in basketball) where players on a favored team have won the game but deliberately ensured the quoted point spread was not covered (see point shaving).
Since gambling pre-dates recorded history it comes as little surprise that evidence of match fixing is found throughout recorded history. The Ancient Olympics were almost constantly dealing with allegations of athletes accepting bribes to lose a competition and city-states which often tried to manipulate the outcome with large amounts of money. These activities went on despite the oath each athlete took to protect the integrity of the events and the severe punishment sometimes inflicted on those who were caught. Chariot racing was also dogged by race fixing throughout its history.
By the end of the 19th century gambling was illegal in most jurisdictions but that did not stop its widepread practice especially in the United States. Boxing soon became rife with fighters "taking a dive" - probably because boxing is an individual sport which makes its matches much easier to fix without getting caught. Baseball also became plagued by match fixing despite efforts by the National League to stop gambling at its games. Matters finally came to a head in 1919 when eight members of the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series (see Black Sox Scandal). The effects of the Black Sox Scandal would lead to Major League Baseball adopting draconian rules prohibiting gambling which persist to this day.
Match fixing and gambling today
Influenced by baseball's experiences, the NFL and NBA have followed MLB's lead and adopted a hard line against gambling on its games, especially by those directly involved in the league. The NCAA goes as far as to prohibit its athletes and coaches from gambling on any sport in which the NCAA holds a championship. Each of these organizations was strongly influenced by fears that their games could come under the influence of gamblers in the absence of these tough measures.
In Britain the authorities in both government and sport have taken a softer line on gambling. Sports betting was legalized in the 1960s and organizations such as The Football Association seem to have taken the stance that gambling on their events is inevitable - unlike the American leagues, The FA only prohibits betting on a match by those directly involved in the game in question.
The integrity of horse racing remains an ongoing concern since gambling is an integral part of this sport. Recent allegations of race fixing have centered around the recently-formed betting exchanges which unlike traditional bookmakers allow punters to lay an outcome (that is, to bet against a particular runner). Leading exchange Betfair has responded to the allegations by signing Memorandums of Understanding with the Jockey Club, The FA, the International Cricket Council, the Association of Tennis Professionals and other sporting authorities. These MOUs are evidence of the vast difference between British and American attitudes - as of 2004 it would be almost unthinkable for an American sports league to sign such an agreement with a bookmaker or betting exchange.
It should be noted that while British football has never been rocked by match fixing allegations on the scale of the Black Sox scandal, cricket has been scandalized by gambling and match fixing in soccer has become a serious problem in parts of Continental Europe.
The high salaries of some of today's professional athletes likely serves to insulate their leagues from player-instigated match fixing. In the NCAA and in leagues where the salaries are comparatively less, match fixing by players remains a serious concern.
- In 2000 the Delhi police intercepted a conversation between a blacklisted bookie and the South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje in which they learnt that Cronje accepted money to throw matches. The South African government refused to allow any of its players to face the Indian investigation unit, which opened up a can of worms. A court of inquiry was set up and Cronje admitted to throwing matches. He was immediately banned from all cricket. He also named Salim Malik (Pakistan), Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja (India). They too were banned from all cricket. As a kingpin, Cronje exposed the dark side of betting, however with his untimely death in 2002 most of his sources also have escaped law enforcement agencies. Two South African cricketers, Herschelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje , are also wanted by the Delhi police for their role in the match fixing saga. A few years before in 1998, Australian legends Mark Waugh and Shane Warne were fined for revealing information about the 'weather' to bookmakers.
- In June 2004 in South Africa, thirty-three people (including nineteen referees, club officials, a match commissioner and an official of the South African Football Association ) were arrested on match-fixing charges.
- In January 2005, the German Football Association and German prosecutors launched separate probes into charges that referee Robert Hoyzer bet on and fixed several matches that he worked, including a German Cup tie. Hoyzer later admitted to the allegations; it has been reported that he was involved with Croat gambling syndicates. He also implicated other referees and players in the match fixing scheme. The first arrests in the Hoyzer investigation were made on January 28 in Berlin, and Hoyzer himself was arrested on February 12 after new evidence apparently emerged to suggest that he had been involved in fixing more matches than he had admitted to. Hoyzer's punishment is yet to be determined, but the German prosecutor's office has indicated that he faces a possible long jail sentence if found guilty. On March 10, a second referee, Dominik Marks, was arrested after being implicated in the scheme by Hoyzer. Still later (March 24), it was reported that Hoyzer had told investigators that the gambling ring he was involved with had access to UEFA's referee assignments for international matches and Champions League and UEFA Cup fixtures several days before UEFA publicly announced them.