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The match fixing problem

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The immense growth in football betting in recent decades has increased the incentives for criminals to attempt to engage in match fixing and sometimes they find players who are willing to take part.  It's a long way from the days of people filling in the football 'coupon' and hoping to find instant riches.

According to Swiss outfit Sportsradar something like €375 billion of bets are placed each year on football matches.   Their fraud detection unit thinks that about one per cent of matches have been rigged.

There have certainly been problems in non-league football in Britain.   Matches are relatively obscure and difficult to predict and the temptation may be too much for some players who receive little financial reward.

However, there have been particularly serious problems in Italy, with allegations of the involvement of a clan of the Camorra, the mafia of Naples.

The latest scandal earlier in the summer led to ten arrests, including three players.  It concerns two second division games in the 2013-14 season, one a 3-0 victory, the other 1-0.

In the northern town of Cremona, a judge sent more than 90 people for trial, including a former Italian international.   The charges, arising from an investigation termed Last Bet, related to an alleged conspiracy to fix results in Serie A and Serie B, as well as a junior one.  

This case extends well beyond Italy, with the evidence gathered being used to arrest a businessman in Italy, Tan Seet Eng, more commonly known as 'Dan Tan'.  It was alleged that he was at the centre of  a global match fixing network that made millions of dollars out of games in Italy, Hungary and Finland.

In the southern city of Bari, five people convicted of rigging major Serie B games in the 2007-8 and 2008-9 season were given suspended sentences.   This might not seem like a major deterrent, but the Italian justice system often works in mysterious and slow ways.  

In June prosecutors in Catanzaro sought the indictment of 63 people accused of involvement with criminal networks that rigged matches in the lower divisions.   More than 30 teams were affected.

Against this backcloth, one is forced to ask whether there is an epidemic of match fixing in Italy.  Or perhaps it is just endemic?