Thursday, 30 May 2013

Match-Fixers and Lance Armstrong

'Defrauding the public' - I have heard this phrase on countless occasions, pertaining to match-fixing in football and indeed in the Lance Armstrong case.

The argument goes that those fixing a football match are a) defrauding the public who are paying to see the match; b) defrauding the betting public who think they are betting on a legitimate match; and c) defrauding the bookmakers. 

a) is a non-runner for jail-time. No one could convince me that the match-fixers from Singapore should go to prison because someone paid £2.20 for a ticket in a domestic Eastern European game or £10 for an international friendly, which was fixed. 

b) is a little trickier. Yes the match-fixers have cost some bettors their money but have they stolen from them? Have they defrauded them? For example, a customer bets £20 on Manchester City (no, I am not accusing them, although their mid-season performances were suspect!) at odds of 5/6. If the game is fixed for them to lose, technically, the match-fixers have cost our bettor £20. These odds should be 3/1, 4/1 or even 1000-1 if the fix is definitely in. And yet, by that same token, those unwittingly who have bet on Man City's opponents stand to win money they didn't expect. In any event, when a person bets £20 at odds of 5/6, his £20 is already subject to the margin. The real thieves are the bookmakers! But seriously, I don't think the match-fixers can be held accountable for even larger losses by bettors. 

c) is the most legitimate argument for jail-time. Match-fixers are using 'insider information' to profit from betting. They are defrauding bookmakers. Again, there are some credible arguments against this. Firstly, Dan Tan and the financiers are not betting with William Hill or Ladbrokes who would need a sit-down if someone asked for a million pound bet. No, the match-fixers are betting with Asian operators who are taking the bets illegally. By that I mean, the money is arriving from countries where people are not allowed to bet outside the monopolised lottery. So who are the match-fixers defrauding? - illegal bookmakers. This is further complicated by the fact that occasionally the bookmaker is aware of the match-fixing as in the famous case of Samvo. On the balance of things, based off betting alone and 'defrauding the public' and my wholesale lack of law knowledge, I say match-fixers are not liable for jail-time. 

However, it is what is connected with the match-fixing which is the real crime. Coercion, money laundering, terrorism, drugs, prostitution, illegal doping, murder and theft are all crimes in my book. So find them, make a case and throw away the key. They 'deserve' to be locked up for ruining football - but on football crimes alone, it's not going to happen. If jail-time was handed out on crimes against football, Stoke and Tony Pulis would never see the light of day!

Moving on to Lance Armstrong. 

I've heard many calling out Lance Armstrong for fraud and people have even called for his imprisonment. Again he has defrauded the paying public. But Livestrong (helped by Armstrong) have raised more than $500 million for Cancer Research. I don't care if it was guilt money or he was even forced to do it. The fact is, if cancer is cured one day, Lance Armstrong will have contributed in some way. I think that's a bit bigger than taking some pills to ride a bike quicker. He was a person who was able to 'defraud' cycling fans and sponsors into putting their hand in their pocket. They wouldn't have done it for Basso or the Schleks. I'm not trying to dismiss cycling but it is well known how drug-ridden the game was/is. It just so happens Lance Armstrong's PED game was better than most.

This blog is not a defence of Dan Tan or Lance Armstrong. I just think people should calm down before they scream 'off with their heads'. It's the people outside of football - the real criminals who are responsible as well as the players who get dragged into the mess. You always have a choice as a footballer on that first occasion. Others, such as women taken from their homes and used as prostitutes, do not. But a footballer has a club, teammates, and a manager who he can go to. Those in Spain have no excuse. But I don't think it makes you a terrible person - just a greedy one. Football is just a game. It's the betting, offered by bookmakers FOR PROFIT (not the enhancement of the game) which creates the opportunity.

All the best,


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