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Football friendly matches exploited by match-fixers

Soccer betting news

Football friendly matches are wide open for match-fixing due to a lack of regulation, according to new research, with more than 250 games involving European clubs showing signs of suspicious activity during 2016-2020.

The results come from a three-year study funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme and led by the University of Nicosia Research Foundation.

A survey of 700 players from Cyprus, Malta and Greece conducted by Erasmus+ found that 26.5% had played in a club friendly fixture they suspected had been manipulated.

Some 26.35% of the surveyed players said they were approached to fix a friendly match by club officials, and 15% revealed they had been asked to fix a contest by other players.

The research study found that international and national soccer federations have been slow to establish where responsibility lies for friendlies, particularly when clubs from different countries are involved in non-competitive matches played in a third country. A handful of European football federations do not track where clubs go on pre-season and mid-winter tours.

The lack of sporting governance and regulation, combined with the availability of these games on sports betting markets around the world, notably with poorly or unregulated betting operators in jurisdictions such as Curaçao and the Philippines make it easier for those involved to help manipulate results before kickoff.

Erasmus+ has put forward several propositions towards combating match-fixing in non-competitive friendlies. It includes UEFA regulating all friendlies in the 55 associations under their watch.

Compared to competitive football matches, which are usually covered by agreements between data companies and competition organisers, friendlies are a free-for-all.

Data from these games is being collected and sold to poorly and unregulated betting operators, which do not report signs of suspicious activity, which is often a licensing requirement for well-regulated bookmakers.

With all that being said, this has the potential of a ‘blind spot’ in terms of market and consumer protection.

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