Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Daft rules hurt war on football match-fixing

Under spotlight: Stoke's Cameron Jerome has been charged with breaching betting regulations

IT'S imperative that everything is done to root out match-fixing as a new football season unfolds. Easier said than done in view of the plethora of betting markets and opportunities online and elsewhere.

Temptations are always there whether it be in local games or Champions League and the Irish FA have made moves under their new integrity policy to try and counteract 'fixing' which has raised its head on one or two occasions in recent years.

But it's in the rest of Europe where the biggest problems rest and investigations are currently under way into nine matches in Spain including three in La Liga.

To stop corruption, more co-operation is needed between the football authorities and the betting firms.

When suspicious betting patterns arise there should be immediate contact with the governing body who could then, if necessary, suspend the fixture, thereby leading to all bets on the game being void.

Also, life-time bans must be handed to those found guilty of corruption – not fines or suspensions.

However some of the regulations regarding betting have been stretched to the point of being ridiculous.

For example, this week Stoke striker Cameron Jerome placed a bet on a competition in which his team played.

There's no suggestion of match-fixing or any other form of corruption, nor did the bet involve a game in which Stoke participated. So where was the harm?

The regulations, laid down by Uefa and adopted by the IFA, make it clear that no player or club official can bet on a competition in which their club has played in.

Hence any Cliftonville player or official who has a bet on Celtic to win tonight's Champions League match or who bets on Man United or Barcelona to win outright, will be in breach of the regulations.

The same applies to Linfield, Glentoran and Crusaders in the Europa League.

No Northern Ireland player, coach, team attendant or IFA official is allowed to place a bet on next year's World Cup finals, nor can any intermediate club player or official have a wager on who'll win the Irish Cup if their team has played in the competition. Nor can they get anyone else to place such a bet on their behalf.

As for the section on inside information, that's even more ludicrous and impossible to police. Inside information is a fundamental part of betting battles with the layers. Yet no player or official can pass on information by word of mouth or social network which can be used for betting, even if they did not know the recipient would use it for such purposes.

For example, a player is called on the morning of a game by a friend who asks about team selection as he wants to have a bet on the result. The player tells the caller that he and two other players have failed a fitness test before it is publicly known. If the friend has a bet on the opposition to win or lays the player's team to lose, then that is a breach of the rule.

Equally a player ringing a bookmaker friend with the same info and the bookie altering his odds would likely be deemed in breach.

Exclusive information is an important part of the battle between punter and bookmaker.

There is nothing wrong in gleaning as much information as possible before others find out and getting on before a price disappears.

After all, it's the early bird that catches the worm.

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