'Match fixing' fixes nothing

May 6, 2011

Fame and fortune are often cited as two of the most significant extrinsic rewards fuelling doping in sport. One of these two culprits, fortune, is also driving another insidious threat to true sport. That threat is match fixing, driven by gambling on sporting contests. I noticed in today’s news that FIFA, the world governing body for the sport of soccer, is currently investigating claims that no less than 300 matches on three continents were influenced by match-fixers. The sport of tennis is also actively looking into concerns about match fixing. Many other sports are starting to open their eyes to this unfortunate possibility.

Nothing undermines the integrity of sport quite the same as match fixing. Sport is a contest between individuals and teams within an unknown outcome. It’s a contest of skills, abilities, desire and effort. It is reality television at its best. When individuals agree to affect the outcome of the game, in advance, sport is robbed of all that is good about it. The test of character is removed and the life lessons learned are of dubious value.

Consider this finding from research conducted into college basketball in the United States. “Wolfers looked at the scores of more than 44,000 Division 1 college basketball games from 1989 to 2005 and found that the number of times that the winning team just failed to beat the ‘spread’ couldn't be explained by chance.”

If sports aren’t asking themselves if they have a gambling problem in their sport, they should be. When the economics of cheating creates more financial incentive than winning – chances are you’ve got a problem!

As a fan, participant, or supporter of sport, how does this make you feel?