From the point of view of a professional player, it is worthwhile to say a few enlightening words about the entire betting scandal, starting with the manipulations around referee Robert Hoyzer that were uncovered in January 2005. Certainly, the whole story is highly complex and offers starting points from many perspectives to tackle the problem. Here I will try to take some of these perspectives into account, but I still have my own in the first place.
So what are the questions that arise by default? What are the questions that are essentially taken up in the media and that can, if possible, be processed into usable, preferably understandable little morsels for the reader/viewer/viewer? And what questions would there actually be to ask if the consumer were not taken into account? Here are a few that come to mind:
- What does the betting market really look like?
- Who are the injured parties?
- What is the relationship between the sums of money wagered on the betting market and the sporting objectives of the teams?
- What part do the market participants have/what role do they play in possible manipulation?
- What tricks are there to be able to manipulate with a clear conscience?
- What is the relationship between the stock exchange and the betting market?
Since many more questions of this kind would immediately come to mind, let us begin by answering one that has not yet been raised:
- What kind of game are we talking about?
Whenever one hears the terms “manipulation” or “betting fraud”, one may always ask this question first: What kind of game is it? One part of this is the size of the game, another possibly the importance of the game to the teams. First of all, the size:
There are the small games below the 1st leagues, in the big countries even only those below the 2nd leagues. These are then mostly games in which the sporting importance is low to very low, at least for the normal population. The income of the players is often still within the range of the normal citizen. It is therefore conceivable that even small additional incomes can be tempting for the players. These games should only be distinguished from the really big games within the top leagues.
Even these games, however, are still divided into those in which both teams have full motivation and those in which one of the teams no longer has any particular motivation because it has already achieved its goals for the season. Of course, such matches are particularly critical in terms of manipulation. This was already the case in times without the betting market. With the huge sums now being wagered, such games are even more suitable. Large games with motivation for both teams are in themselves the least suitable – on the other hand, therefore, also the least conspicuous, as one simply cannot imagine it.
The early warning system will certainly soon sound the “alarm” on a daily basis for smaller matches. It’s just that the pairings are completely unsuitable to startle the population. Since the affiliated football associations are fundamentally interested in maintaining the cleanliness of their sport, they do not react to it. One might ask, in that context, how they would go about it? A press release that the match Gossau vs. Geneva has recorded a conspicuous odds movement on the “over 2.5 goals”? There, the feeling is, the falling sack of rice in China could already startle more people. And what should the association do about it? Put the match under observation and suspend all players because 3 goals were scored?
Apart from that, it is really conceivable that the federations will react in such a way that they might initiate a few investigations in a highly secretive manner, perhaps observe individual matches, just to have the chance of uncovering something bigger later on. That’s more or less what happened.
By the way, the suspicious matches that re-emerged well after the Hoyzer scandal were almost all matches from smaller, lower leagues. In this respect, here is a typical course of events from the point of view of the betting market:
The Asian providers are dominating the market. They are including more and more games and leagues in their offer. They expose themselves to this kind of manipulation, if you want to put it in a bad way, they also endanger the sport by offering opportunities for seduction. But on the other hand, they expose the sport and the other bettors to this possibility even more.
For many of the players participating in such small games are anything but big earners and can thus be enticed to make a few euros on the side. The question now is whether they can, should or must be morally reproached.
The provider bears the responsibility for what he dares to offer. Consequently, he is also responsible for his money, if he risks any at all. The bettor who enters into such betting offers is also responsible for his money. He would certainly not make any recourse claims if he loses his bet. Even if it should turn out that he was cheated. He would rather say to himself: “How stupid of me. Why am I betting a game like this?” By the way, he doesn’t react much differently to other losing bets either….
So far, so good. There is a small game on offer. In principle, it is fair to say that virtually no one is interested in it. Nevertheless, it offers an opportunity to make turnover on it and hope to win a bet. This affects every market participant. It is comparable to the temptation of throwing a roulette ball in a casino. First of all, you don’t have to be there when it happens. If you are there, there is also no obligation to follow the sound let alone place a euro on black or the 27. Nevertheless, there is a certain attraction to doing it. One may, one could, since one has money in one’s pocket, the lure is there, but one doesn’t have to and — as virtuous Germans so nicely imbibed with their mother’s milk? — one should not. The money will be gone. If not right now, then next time. You’ll see…
So it happens that a few people succumb to the allure and place a few euros on this game. The (Asian) provider protects himself in that he sets quite small limits. Depending on the sporting value of the event, according to his own discretion or greed or his previous experience with such games. At the same time, he keeps a very close eye on the incoming bets, although software has long since taken care of this. As soon as something conspicuous happens, he keeps all options open to intervene. So if suddenly the same game is bet on several times via a single betting account – which becomes noticeable in a price drop – and at the same time with the maximum bet amount available in each case, then he will soon put it under special observation and possibly not accept any more money on it from one side, but perhaps also not accept any more from other sides. So much for the responsibility for his money. He bears it and knows what he has to do. It will be difficult to harm this man financially. If it happens, it will be on a very small scale and only in dimensions that make manipulation guaranteed not worthwhile.
A quick look at the other perspective. There is a football player somewhere who plays for a small, still insignificant team. By a small coincidence, he knows someone who knows how to bet in Asia and who also has access there. The greed for money is quite widespread and this man with the betting opportunities tries very carefully to make a little extra income possible for himself as well. Whether he met the gambler intentionally or really by chance remains to be seen. The two talk to each other. The kicker asks with interest how the whole betting thing works? The agent explains. He shows him that the small game he is supposed to play in that afternoon is in the betting line-up. Now the two of them hatch a plan. But they sense that it is not enough for a single player to make an effort to influence the game. They look for other possibilities. All right, a few fellow players are initiated, are also seduced by the prospect of a few extra euros, they agree. Let’s assume that the facilitator has explained well and given the representatives a chance to clear their consciences: You don’t have to lose extra for there to be money. It is enough if you make sure that at least three goals are scored. The boys are relieved and pitch in after a small amount of euros is agreed, per head.
Now it’s time to get to work in the betting market. The middleman is just a single “black sheep”. If he worked for the much-cited betting mafia, it would definitely not pay off for such a game. He tries to bet as much as possible on the “over” (three or more goals). He may be a single (black) sheep, but he has various betting options with several providers and he also has some money already, so that only the set limits have to apply to him.
The “over” is betting for all it’s worth. Only the stuff doesn’t hold much. There is no talk of miscalculation here, but it is simply not enough. The price is in the cellar in no time, which figuratively means shooting at sparrows with a cannon. With the meanwhile very low price, he already has to bet very high amounts in order to make a reasonable profit. He can still quickly try to work the betting exchange betfair with the money available there, but the rate is spoiled on all the big markets. They are all interconnected, minutes at the latest. The small bookmaker, the traditional provider, with whom he also maintains two or three accounts, only take small amounts anyway, if they have such a game in their programme at all.
Who are the manipulators supposed to win from now? The big Asian provider is happy to accept further stakes. But only if they receive sufficiently large amounts on the other side. If that is the case, then the price will correct itself again. It is possible that there are a few bettors who are always on the lookout for “odds bargains” and who at the same time believe in an ideal football world. If one of them sees a rising price and thinks this is a money gift, does not believe in manipulation, then it is possible that he will risk a few euros cautiously, maybe courageously and maybe even a few more, maybe there are more than ten market participants who act this way. The one manipulating the outcome of the game can now get rid of a few euros on the (presumably) “sure event”, the over, the three or more goals.
By the way, anyone who now bets on the price rising again and further is responsible for his money, just like any other market participant. If he does it and continues to bet on the “wrong side”, i.e. on the “under” due to the so attractive price, then he will certainly accept if the under does not occur and his money is gone. Whether he does it again next week is up to him. He may tell himself that he was unlucky, he may think it was a scam. He doesn’t want the money back. At most, he will slap himself a few times. As long as there are a few stupid people who are willing to risk their money on such small games, there will be manipulations (on such games). It’s just that it doesn’t seem attractive. Who is supposed to earn from it, especially how much, which actually means how little?
Now there’s another perspective: three players in the know who want to make sure, if possible, that the game goes the way they want it to, that is, that goals are scored, probably can’t quite make sure of that. Mainly because the coach could replace them if they permanently fail. If one of them is a defender who constantly runs forward so that his opponent is unguarded, he may only have a limited running time despite his long runs. He is soon off the pitch, on the substitutes’ bench. There are two other aspects to this: Once substituted, you may never get back into the team? And secondly, that if the cheating attempt is exposed, your entire career could be in jeopardy.
In the big games, you don’t really have to worry too much. As long as the motivation is quite clear (must win vs. need not win; even in these games, however, it is better to keep your hands off or only place well-considered or small bets!), you have always had to reckon with the game being of little sporting value and often enough you had the certain feeling that the result was not achieved under completely regular circumstances (Gladbach – Dortmund 13:0 ?!?!). Otherwise, the amounts at stake for the teams in the competition as well as the careers of the players are too valuable to seriously allow manipulation.
In small games, on the other hand, it is as indicated above: as long as there are the stupid ones who voluntarily lose or get involved in these highly risky bets (i.e. do not really take into account the market movements), there will be the risk of interference. Only the stupid ones will either die out or run out of money….
So the view here is that the drama is not as big as it is made out to be. The market cleans itself. Education would have to be provided about the betting possibilities. The stupid are left to their fate, if this is seen as the “dark side”. Only otherwise, especially in this country, one would point the finger at every gambler who runs out of money: “It’s your own fault!”
The problem is that the betting offers are not always in line with sporting goals. And in Asia, people bet out of passion. As long as this connection is not made clear and people continue to allow themselves to be harmed in ignorance of this fact, it remains critical, but state controls would achieve absolutely nothing.
Here are a few other aspects:
What would help, on the other hand, would be fans who don’t go along with everything the media says. The media initially pretend that it’s all about winning. Once you have swallowed this bitter pill, you also swallow all the consequences. One of them is that it doesn’t matter who plays for the club, as long as he is good. The player himself has long since discarded any morals. He has a simple principle: “I’ll eat your bread and sing your song. And tomorrow I’ll eat your bread if you offer me a better contract…”.
If the fan were now no longer prepared to go along with this, there would first be a chance that the player in the making would be interested not only in his bank account but also in the fate of his club and the fans of that club. Apart from the fact that being down-to-earth per se is already a mark of reliability. If we still had Franz Beckenbauer’s, Uwe Seeler’s and Fritz Walter’s on the pitch, the danger of manipulation would almost certainly tend towards 0.
The media should start to understand that a good football match includes a winner and a loser and that one has to thank both for their participation in the event, bring the positive aspects back to the fore and simply be happy about goals, no matter on which side. Even if they mean defeat, elimination for today.
The fan generally accepts where the media steers him anyway. That is the power of the media. Provided the attention was directed in such a way that there were other values than winning, a much rosier future could be drawn. As an example: the fan whistles at the legionnaires, doesn’t want to see them anymore, chases them home, votes against signing or extending their contracts. The players who perform play their hearts out for the club and the fans. And the black sheep can look for a new pasture…. Yes, the rose-tinted glasses. Conceivable but still. Why not?
If now the referees also play along, who fundamentally understand that the spectacle on the pitch is only created by goals and who, when a goal is scored, don’t look for any hair in the soup but simply give it. The assistants who have understood the basic idea of the rule “in case of doubt for the attacker” and implement it and let go with each of the difficult to recognise offside situations — as the announcers always explain to us afterwards, at the same time that they don’t reproach him, but don’t even realise that the mistakes are more than 90% to the disadvantage of the attackers — then we would also see goals and, small side effect, the referees would also have a much harder time with more goals with manipulations.
Today, with a standard final score of 1:0, one can always analyse in retrospect: “He could have given a penalty here … he should have”, there was no offside here and this goal was also legal. But he saw it differently? At the moment, almost every game depends on one or two critical decisions. This would not be the case if there were (significantly) more goals. The referee would also have less power, as Hoyzer once had.