Listen to Sport NZ and special guest Andrew Scott-Howman for this wide-ranging discussion on competition manipulation (match-fixing) in New Zealand sport. Andrew is a Wellington-based barrister who has extensive experience advising and working with amateur and professional players and sporting organisations both in New Zealand and overseas.
He has particular interest and expertise in integrity issues in sport. He provides training to players about the dangers of match-fixing in New Zealand and works closely with both National Sport Organisations and the NZ Police in this area. Andrew is also a member of the Sport and Recreation Complaints and Mediation Service (SRCMS) expert investigations panel.
What will you learn?
- What match-fixing is and who it can impact
- How match-fixing happens
- Real life risks here in New Zealand
- What to do if you think it may be happening
Match-fixing is a common term thrown around sport. It may seem far removed from competitions here in New Zealand, but we can assure you it is happening. It is a huge risk to athletes, coaches, support staff, families and competitions.
Sport NZ Integrity Project Consultant Josh Margetts spoke to Andrew Scott-Howman on what match-fixing is and who it can impact, how to recognise it, the consequences of it and what to do if you suspect something fishy is going on.
What is match-fixing and how does it work?
Andrew highlighted how controlling the outcome of a match is actually very difficult as it often relies on so many variables such as teammates, opposition and/or referees to name a few. Fixing a singular action or moment is far more common and very easy to do. Andrew said, “Match-fixers seek to control single events in a match. These single events are often very hard to detect, they don’t directly impact the outcome of the match, and can be bet on through online betting agencies.”
Key types of competition manipulation
Match-Fixing: Any type of manipulation within a match, including its result.
Spot-Fixing: Refers to fixing small events during the course of a competition; a part of match-fixing, even though spot fixes may not affect the outcome of the match.
Tanking: Throwing or deliberately losing a game or points to gain undue advantage in a competition is referred to as tanking. For example, slowing your stroke rate to deliberately let another competitor past you.
Inside Information: This means having information that gives you an unfair betting advantage. All exclusive information (tactics, injuries, etc) to which competitors and officials have access. This information must be kept private because it can be used for fraudulent betting purposes.
Betting Prohibition: This means that competitors, referees and officials are not allowed to bet on their own competition.
Check out this Report into Match-Fixing and Betting Corruption in 2021 by ‘Sportradar Integrity Services’. It highlights the extent of match-fixing and the damaging effect it has on the industry.
Common misconceptions about match-fixing in New Zealand
There are several things about our country that give rise to misconceptions that match-fixing can’t happen here:
- New Zealand is not considered a very corrupt country. In fact, ‘Transparency International’ recently announced New Zealand as the least corrupt country in the world!
- Most of our athletes are amateur. Who would possibly be interested in fixing the outcome of amateur sport?
- You can’t even bet on our sports in New Zealand. Meaning the TAB don’t even offer odds on most of the competitions in this country.
Sixty percent of the world’s population live in Asia. Eighty per cent of global gambling happens here. This is partly because of the population, but it is also cultural. Many Asian countries have a strong culture of gambling.
Critical to this, is New Zealand’s time zone. To bet on sport, you need a live match, game or competition. And for four-five hours every Saturday, New Zealand is practically the only global sport market that is participating in live sport. Therefore, if it is lunchtime in certain Asian countries with high rates of sports gambling, the only thing you can bet on live is competitions happening in New Zealand. This creates a great risk for competition manipulation to take place.
“Over 250 online betting agencies are offering odds on sports being played in New Zealand,” said Andrew.
Time Zone: New Zealand’s time zone means that each weekend, we hold the monopoly for a few hours of the sport betting markets in Asia.
Amateur players: The majority of sport in New Zealand is amateur meaning players do not receive an income to play their sport. This makes players susceptible to offers from corrupt individuals or organised crime groups. Players are easier to approach the bribing costs are much lower.
Livestreaming: Live streaming of matches means that anyone around the globe can easily watch matches being played here in New Zealand. The increased interest in New Zealand competitions brings more attention from fixers and organised crime groups.
How does match-fixing start?
Approaches for match-fixing will normally start out with a seemingly innocent request or an offer to help you or your family in some way. This may be:
- offers of sponsorship for a club
- opportunity for sponsorship for a player
- an offer for overseas trial
- a gift out of nowhere
- a meal, or drinks, after training with a ‘fan’
- social media contact such as through Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
From there, the ‘requests’ and the ‘favours’ the fixer asks for in return will increase. Without knowing it, the athlete (or club) can end up in a compromised situation where the fixer has leverage and control. It may take years before the fixer asks the athlete (or club) to fix a match.
What can you do about it?
Be familiar with how approaches start so you can recognise them before you are compromised. If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Most importantly look after the people around you.
Look out for:
- a stranger offering you kindness
- a fan being overly interested
- a sudden friend of your family.
Once you recognise an approach, be sure to resist any of their advances. You are best to stop all forms of communication with anyone you suspect of being a match-fixer. Without integrity, sport loses its credibility, its fans, its sponsors. Match-fixing destroys sport. Protect the game and resist it if you are approached to fix a match.
Remember, it is vital that people speak up. You must report it if you:
- are approached or suspect someone you know has been approached, or is involved in match-fixing
- know about inappropriate betting on sport, for example, betting on competitions that you are directly involved in.
There are many ways to report instances of match-fixing:
- Tell a trusted person in your environment, for example, coach or managers.
- Sports may have their own confidential reporting mechanism.
- The Sport and Recreation Mediation Service is free and available for anyone who has suspicions of match fixing in their sport.
- NZ Police have a dedicated resource that will support with match fixing scenarios.
Policies and procedures Policies must be living documents that guide decisions and behaviour
Match-fixing and corruption policies are extremely important. However, they are deemed useless if they are not brought to life in the day-to-day operations of the organisation. It is vital that policies are kept up to date and relevant for the constantly changing environment that many organisations find themselves in. There are some valuable resources out there that can help form the basis of your organisations policies and procedures, but it is important to tailor these to the specific needs of the organisation.
Education and training
This free e-learning module will help you identify how competition manipulation can occur and the threats it brings to individuals and their competition or sport. Whatever your level of involvement is in active recreation and sport, there’s a chance you or someone you know could be impacted by dishonest or corrupt people. We all need to play a role in ensuring our competitions are fair and just. This module will give you a good start to understanding about competition manipulation and its implications.