Match-Fixing in International Sports:
Existing Processes, Law Enforcement and Prevention Strategies
Edited by M.R. Haberfeld and Dale Sheehan
New York, NY: Springer. 2014.
Match-Fixing in International Sports is a versatile collection edited by Maria R. Haberfeld (City University of New York) and Dale Sheehan (INTERPOL). It is the product of an international conference that brought together experts from around the globe to discuss issues relating to match-fixing and ways of dealing with match-fixing and corruption in sports. The conference was sponsored by INTERPOL and held in Singapore in late November 2012. The book, that starts with a foreword by Secretary General of INTERPOL, Ronald K. Noble, and a Preface (emphatically titled ‘Match Manipulation by Organized Crime Groups’) by Ralf Mutschke, FIFA’s head of security, is structured upon eighteen substantial, and differentially arresting, chapters of varying quality and length. These chapters that are impossible to describe in some detail in this review, fall within three distinct parts.
Part I, in my opinion the more compelling of the three parts, deals with corruption in sports and, specifically, the definitional and operational issues around match-fixing. In this part the authors present their views and experiences with regard to football through several absorbing cases from Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Russia, sports betting in Uganda and cricket in India. In their efforts, and although each chapter is significantly different from the next one in terms of the structure and content, the authors deal with legal issues, discuss match-fixing as a manifestation of what is broadly called ‘organized crime’, pose a number of questions regarding the nature of the problem ranging from the impact of globalization, the liberalization of trade markets, the unregulated nature of betting in Asian economies, socio-economic factors, the information-age and consumerism, and evaluate the legal and administrative tools to deal with match-fixing.
Part II focuses on contemporary approaches to preventing match-fixing. Here, the authors present the perspectives and experiences in responding to match-fixing from various countries, offer recommendations and suggest initiatives and mechanisms towards the prevention of sport-related scandals. The authors also explore the many limitations from these initiatives and mechanisms.
Part III looks at responses to match-fixing for the future. The authors here provide a historical overview of INTERPOL’s efforts against sports-related corruption, discuss the possible role of the academic community and educational initiatives in maintaining the integrity of sports and fighting match-fixing. They also make a plea towards the provision of more and meaningful data to researchers and academics towards understanding the phenomenon better.
Overall, Match-Fixing in International Sports is a calm account that largely does not follow the essence of the claim made in the preface that “organized crime recently switched from drug trafficking to match-fixing” (p. ix). The collection constitutes an amalgamate of writings by academics and practitioners. The scope of the topics covered is impressive. Ranging from the organization of match-fixing in football and cricket, illegal betting and corruption, the influence of Bollywood in the growth of illegal betting, to a game theory approach to match-fixing to initiatives and solutions towards dealing with the problem (some less convincing than others). As a result, a common feature of many edited collections, repetition of issues, is not widely present here…
The collection under review also has an extremely wide geographical scope covering the usual countries (although I was surprised not to see contributions from a few more western countries that have been associated with match-fixing). Moreover, the contexts that rarely appear in treatises of crime-related issues such as Uganda, Zimbabwe, India, Brazil, Turkey, and Korea are also present. Directly – through the presentation of a variety of contexts and topics around match-fixing – or indirectly, the collection highlights that the various issues associated with match-fixing are still not conceptually clear, and that a lot of work has to be done in that respect.
On the other hand, the volume’s very same diversity that most readers (including myself) would perceive as its strength, may also constitute a ‘weakness’ in a sense as it may not allow the sufficient delving into important theoretical issues. The partial preoccupation with some of the theoretical issues involved weakens, in my opinion, the theoretical thrust of the collection. For example, I would personally like to see more discussion, with more structure, about match-fixing as ‘organized crime’ and as a variant of ‘white-collar crime’, as is suggested in the book. Or, perhaps some additional, deeper (and consistent throughout the book) discussion on how the commercialization of football and sports, in general, as well as consumerism have rendered it vulnerable in a ruthless neoliberal environment. In this way, some of the rather romantic views about dealing with match-fixing and sports corruption expressed in the book by some of the authors could have been avoided.
The last couple of comments do not, of course, limit the quality and contribution of the collection in any way. Match-Fixing in International Sports is the most integrated collection of its kind, and one that opens up a number of exciting paths of inquiry for criminologists, legal experts, law enforcement agents and practitioners working on sports integrity.
GEORGIOS A. ANTONOPOULOS
Teesside University, UK