The Punter: Football a good bet
Bookmakers have moved quickly to dispel fears that betting on football might be restricted following the biggest ever probe into match-fixing.
Europol, a law enforcement agency involved in fighting serious crime, are working with police in 13 European countries, looking into suspicious betting involving 680 matches including a Champions League game involving an English club.
Reports suggest Liverpool's |1-0 home win over Debrecen in the Champions League group stage in 2009 is one of the games under suspicion.
However, there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the Anfield club.
According to the agency, the alleged fixing is on a scale never seen before but is thought to involve mostly international matches in Asia, Africa and South America in the last two years and is centred around Asian syndicates.
‘Dead’ matches in the Europa League often give rise to suspicion and there are many punters who believe, rightly or wrongly, that matches in England and Scotland are also in the loop, although there is no suggestion of that from Europol.
Layers know that when such stories hit the headlines, it can knock customer confidence in betting on European markets.
“We will carry on trading on the Champions League and to a large extent on the Europa League,” said Coral's Head of Football Trading Nick Goff.
“The one thing you can say for sure is that it goes on. But the Champions League is one where you would be surprised if it happened because of the amount of money teams get paid per point.
“But the tricky part is teams lacking motivation and we have seen cases where even the management haven't travelled and this can cause massive changes once the Asian markets find out.
“If we think a game is dodgy, it is reported up the line and gets investigated. Sometimes a match that looks dodgy goes completely the other way.
“It could be days before or on the day of the match. The UK market can sometimes get it wrong and often a big move in the Asian market is simply a case of them getting it right.”
Ladbrokes spokesman David Williams said: “The tight regulations and reporting procedures has helped protect the lawful operators from exposure to betting crime and hence we have no immediate plans to review the range of bets we offer.”
Several years ago it would have taken in the range of £500,000 to move a market substantially. That is now done with sums around £50,000.
But as for those regulars who like their weekend punt on the coupons, there is no need for alarm about integrity of games. Mind you, some of the results recently would have some cynics believing otherwise!