What Is Spot-Fixing?

cartoon man bribing football playerSpot-fixing may be something that you have heard of, possibly in passing, but what exactly is it all about? As fans of sporting events, we expect that what we’re watching, be that in a live venue or on tv, is all 100% genuine. We expect that nobody should know beforehand what a game will entail and how it is going to play out. However, on multiple occasions spot-fixing has come to light where players have fixed aspects of events for money or to win a bet. You may end up seeing something that has been pre-planned appear during a game as though it were just a simple part of the event.

Spot-fixing is an illegal practice and involves fixing something to do with an event that is unlikely to affect the final result but can win someone a bet with a bookmaker. Essentially, a specific aspect of a game is fixed in an attempt to ensure that a certain result happens for a given betting market. If you were to think of football for example, there are certain things that can happen in a game which wouldn’t necessarily affect the final result but do have markets open for them at sportsbooks. Take the idea of yellow cards where people can bet on individual players to be booked. Or perhaps there is a market for the first throw-in. The players would try to time it so that these events occur so as to ensure people betting on those markets win.

Essentially, it is a way for bookmakers to be defrauded by the sports players themselves, by taking an action in a game that will fix the result of a specific event. Spot-fixing is different to match fixing, because the latter is done as a way to ensure the final result of a sporting event is fixed, rather than an event happening within the game. In comparison to match fixing, spot-fixing is a lot more difficult to detect, and it can occur via a lone player who is acting fraudulently or by several players being in cahoots with one another.

Thanks to the emergence of the internet and an increased variety of online sports betting options, spot-fixing has found its way into modern life, and this was particularly evident in the 2000s.

A Closer Look at Spot-Fixing

As a way of finding out how spot-fixing works in a more in-depth way, it would be good to read of some examples of it taking place. You only need to take a look at these different scenarios where spot-fixing has been unmasked.

Matt Le Tissier Comes Clean After Retiring

Former professional footballer Matt Le Tissier spent his entire professional career playing for Southampton before he turned to non-League football in 2002. He won eight caps for the England national team and remains as the second-highest ever scorer for Southampton behind Mick Channon. Le Tissier played his final football match in August of 2003 (although he did come out of retirement 10 years later to play for his hometown club of Guernsey, but only played a single fixture for the team).

In 2009, the former footballer-turned-pundit for Soccer Saturday, admitted his part in a spot-fixing job. According to the autobiography that he released, he stated that he plotted to deliberately kick the ball out in a match taking place in 1995. Entering into collusion with some friends who had placed a spread bet on the time of the first throw-in occurring during a Premier League match against Wimbledon, Le Tissier and a teammate hatched the plan to ensure a win was secured with the wager. The pair plotted to send the ball into touch from the kick-off, thereby outdoing the bookies that had said it would take nearly a minute for it to be in such a position. That would have landed him around £10,000 at the time.

Unfortunately, Le Tissier wasn’t all that he cracked up to be on that particular day. He fluffed his attempt to kick the ball out, losing the chance to win that sports bet.

“As it was live on television I didn’t want to make it too obvious or end up looking like a prat for miscuing the ball so I tried to hit it just over his head”, Le Tissier stated in regard to hitting the ball out in the direction of former Wimbledon player Neil Shipperley. “But with so much riding on it I was a bit nervous and didn’t give it quite enough welly. The problem was that Shipperley knew nothing about the bet and managed to reach it and even head it back into play”.

The Pakistan Cricket Spot-Fixing Scandal of 2010

As noted, spot-fixing can quite easily occur in a range of sports, including cricket, as is highlighted by the August 2010 Test match between England and Pakistan. The scandal that took place centred around three members of the Pakistan national cricket team. In May of that year, Shahid Afridi became the captain of the country’s team for the series against Australia, and after Pakistan lost the first Test, he announced his resignation from that position. Salman Butt was appointed to the role instead.

It was Butt and two fast bowlers from the Pakistan team in Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, who were convicted of taking bribes from a bookmaker – Mazhar Majeed. The plan was for the three of them to be involved in a scheme that would see them deliberately bowl no-balls at certain pre-determined times during the Test match against England.

It was undercover reporters from the News of the World, a former weekly tabloid newspaper in the United Kingdom, who secretly videotaped Majeed accepting money and informing the reporters that the fast bowlers would deliberately bowl the no-balls at specific moments in the game. That information was able to be used by gamblers to place bets on such events taking place. Majeed had been suspected of involvement in match-fixing before, and it was due to this that the tabloid got in contact with him, easily recording him explaining details of when the no-balls would occur.

The team manager of the Pakistan team, Yawar Saeed did not call for the resignation of Butt, and the PCB president Ijaz Butt maintained his position that the three players were innocent. Criminal investigations took place, with all three players suspended during the course of such. In November of 2011, Majeed, Asif, Amir and Butt were all found guilty of conspiracy to cheat at gambling and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments. Amir and Majeed were convicted after pleading guilty to the charges. They were handed jail sentences of six months and 2 years 8 months, respectively.

Asif denied the allegations but was still found guilty and received a one-year sentence (although two years later admitted his guilt in taking part in the spot-fixing). Butt received 2 years six months jailtime.

A 2022 Football Spot-Fixing Scandal

Football is never out of the spotlight, being as though it is a highly popular sport for many people. And even in 2022, spot-fixing has been associated with it. In May, it was reported that several footballers had been involved in spot-fixing for undercover reporters. A BBC investigation videotaped former Llanelli footballer Emile N’Goy, alongside his brother Hermes, and three other European players, discussing the criminal activity with the undercover journalists.

Hermes N’Goy denied his involvement in the planned spot-fix and stated that the accusations levied against the other four were also false. Emile and the three other European footballers, named as Idris Laib, Jean-Francois Mbuba and Julien Vercauteren, were approached individually for comment, but none responded.

It was BBC Wales Investigates journalists who secretly filmed four separate meetings which occurred over a 20-month timeframe between themselves, Hermes and Emile N’Goy. Emile was the first one to be approached about investment opportunities for black market funds, and he said he would speak with his brother regarding such. A Later meeting saw Hermes suggest recruiting three players, and he noted picking footballers from lower European leagues where less scrutiny is involved. The three players brought along played for domestic league clubs in both France and Belgium.

Those three players said that they had all spot-fixed in games before. Hermes proceeded to lay out the payments that he expected the players to get, citing an annual salary of between €20,000 and €25,000 per player and an additional €500 for every throw-in, corner or free kick they set up. Red and yellow cards would be more expensive at €2,000 for the former and €1,000 for the latter.

Commenting on the potential spot-fixing acts, Hermes stated that “it’s not like big match-fixing. It’s a small thing”, but when confronted about it by a BBC journalist, he said that he didn’t know what they were talking about before walking off.

Ryan Tandy and the Rugby Spot-Fixing

One final example of spot-fixing to read about is the story of Ryan Tandy. An Australian rugby player, Tandy played for Ireland in the 2008 World Cup, and this led to a contract with Melbourne Storm for the 2009 season. After a Melbourne Storm salary cap breach, he would go on to sign with Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2010, although was sacked by them the following year. The reason behind that? Tandy’s involvement in a spot-fixing scandal.

After participating in an August 2010 match for Canterbury-Bankstown against the North Queensland Cowboys, a betting scandal was brought to light. The Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) announced that a total of 95% of bets placed on the first scoring play of the match were highly unusual, being wagered on a Cowboys penalty goal. It was revealed that friends and other associates of Tandy had all wagered on that with large amounts, and the total windfall for such a bet winning was expected to go beyond A$100,000.

It was then discovered that Tandy was responsible for two actions within the match against North Queensland, which allowed that team to score a penalty inside the first two minutes of gameplay. He first gave away possession of the ball to the Cowboys in the opening moments by knocking on, and then gave away the penalty in the play-the-ball ten metres in front of the goal posts. While that did put the Cowboys in a position to get a penalty goal, the team decided to attack instead and scored a try.

Tandy denied the accusations put against him but was arrested in February of 2011 for providing false evidence to a law enforcement agency. At the time, the player was in debt by more than A$70,000, coming from losses sustained at the hands of a gambling addiction. In October, he was found guilty of manipulating the first scoring point of the rugby game in question and received an intensive correction order for six months. He was also banned from NRL rugby league for life.

Things went from bad to worse for Tandy, as he was arrested in 2014 for kidnapping in connection with the recovery of a drug debt. Three months after being bailed out, Tandy was found dead at his parents’ home in Saratoga, New South Wales. His cause of death was labelled as an accidental overdose of prescription medication.

How to Tackle Spot-Fixing in Sports

fifproBecause there have been numerous episodes of spot-fixing uncovered over the years, and likely many others that have not been revealed, it begs the question of what is being done to stop this activity from taking place. Spot-fixing in football is something that is being tackled by the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels (FIFPRO), which is the worldwide representative organisation for professional footballers. It has its global headquarters in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, and it is made up of 67 national players’ associations.

The organisation is dedicated to both identifying and eradicating all examples of match-fixing from football, and has incorporated spot-fixing into this too, highlighting any manipulation of this kind to be undermining the ethics and integrity of the sport.

As with many things, spot-fixing is much more prevalent within football, because there are so many divisions and leagues. The lower leagues would be more likely to utilise it because they aren’t as in the spotlight as the top leagues, although of course, these often don’t have as many betting markets offered on them. Of course, by noting the stories mentioned previously, spot-fixing has still been utilised (or attempted) in mainline sporting events in the past, too.

Because of the fact that spot-fixing isn’t necessarily as easy to recognise as match-fixing though, it can be quite difficult to uncover when it is happening or indeed if it has happened at all.

What Happens To Bets That Are Spot Fixed?

ibiaBetting companies are very good at monitoring suspicious betting activity.  They do it both in house using traders and computer software and through independent bodies likes the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA).  If they suspect a market is subject to potential fixing or fraud they will inform operators who will then suspend bets and stakes and investigate the market.

One way they can spot suspicious activity is by looking for people betting more than usual on very specific markets.  If, for example, they would usually take a few hundred pounds on a first throw in market but suddenly there are tens of thousands of pounds bet on the market this will raise red flags.

If you were involved in the spot fixing and placing the bets and it can be proved then you will will forfeit your stakes and also face criminal action.  You may, however, be an innocent bystander who just happened to bet on a market that was then spot fixed, in which case after a period of time your bet will either settle or your stakes returned.