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How to fix a Premier League football match

By Tony Attwood

The standard approach to match fixing as reported by the TV stations and press is one that relates to spot betting – which is to say betting on a particular event.  The attraction of it is that you only need to fix one player to do whatever the deed is you are betting on.  One player to get sent off in the 65th to 70th minute, and if you have bribed that player, you can place the bet and win far more than it cost you to buy the player.

Trouble is, to make this worth while you have to place a lot of bets, and that leads to the “unusual  betting patterns” that the media love to report, and so everyone gets very excited and the story appears on the radio, TV and in the press.

This has a double affect.  On the one hand it suggests that there is something amiss with football.  But on the other hand it suggests very strongly that it is not something that really affects football matches.  So, a player gives away a free kick on 43 minutes.  The kick off of the game goes straight into touch leading to a first throw in on four seconds….  So what?  It is not as if the whole game is bought.

Besides it is all under control because the police and “authorities” are on the case.  Football is clean.

But there is a second, quite different approach, which is not run primarily by match fixers interested in betting.  It is run by the clubs.

The model of course comes from Italy, and the football authorities in England have been desperately anxious to keep any discussion of the notion that this is happening in England out of the media.   But looking at the Untold analysis of what referees are doing, and our ability to predict the outcome of games based on referee behaviour in the past, there is little doubt that something needs investigating.  It is just a shame that the media don’t take up the point.  Maybe they are afraid of losing their press accreditations.

So how does it work?

In referee match fixing the referee has to try and ensure that team A wins or team b loses.  Now this seems obvious, and hardly worth saying, but it does have a profound implication on what follows.

Imagine for a moment that Fizzywizzy Rangers are anxious to win the league, and so the chairman starts saying to referees, “See that we are ok, and a holiday in the West Indies on my private island is yours for the asking this summer.

The ref can help Fizzywizzy win both by being pro Fizzy in their games but also against their nearest rivals in the games their rivals play.  So it is not as overt as “always ensure Fizzy win” but rather uses the tactics described below to ensure that the rivals draw or lose matches that in a free contest they might have won.

The most obvious approach is the awarding of a dubious penalty to the team you are for, refusing an obvious penalty re the team you are against, awarding dubious penalties against the rivals and so on.

But of course if that was all there was it would all be too easy to spot.  So there’s another tactic.    The endless awarding of free kicks for very minor infringements by one team, but letting the other team off when they indulge in the same tactics, ignoring their time wasting and so on.

The players of the team that suffers begin to get agitated, lose their cool and either lose their focus or get booked or sent off for retaliating.

Bookings are likewise a handy weapon.  Yes, in extremis the bent ref will send off a player of the team he is working against, but more often he will book a defender or defensive midfielder or two in the game, knowing that will make them more cautious.  Indeed a booking can really stifle a player’s free flow and can be a very powerful weapon – especially as if the club that wants to win the league has bought several referees that player is likely to reach the totting up total and so miss a game or two through that.

All of these processes are of course aided by the organisation that provides referees for the league if they restrict the number of referees available to an absolute minimum.  The same refs get used again and again, and so any bent ref that happens to be around gets matches that he wants to influence more often.

However lest this all sounds too obvious, and gives you the feeling that we ought to spot such refs at once remember:

a) the media, at least until today, has said little of this problem

b) the notion that referee incompetence is the key to the problem is dominant in English football

c) the referee may not have to do anything, if the team he wants to help win, is winning anyway.

Now of course one big problem is television, and the exposure it gives.   But TV companies are very reticent to blame refs.  BT Sprout’s man on the spot sometimes says, “I think he got that wrong” but never says, “I’m rather worried about the way this is going”.

Indeed the knowledge that the media will not investigate these issues, and that the companies that pay for the rights to show football will always edit out obvious ref “errors” helps the process enormously.  (Overseas showing of the games is deemed irrelevant, because of the British view that only the British see the world as it is.  All foreigners are odd).

There’s more.  The bent ref does not have to be bent in each game.  The deal might be, “help us when you can”.  Since that means, as we have seen, penalising other teams in other matches, bending what one does on minor infringements, choosing to book a player early and so on, it is all quite hard to see unless you are looking for it.  And the TV and radio firms that pay their money for the Premier League, don’t want this subject aired.

Sadly, the fans help the fixing of matches too.   The chant at the ref, “You don’t know what you’re doing” is quite wrong – the bent ref knows exactly what he is doing.   A chant of “How much do Chelsea pay you?” (substituting the name of any club that one thinks is responsible) is more apt, but never heard.

And there’s one more fact.  Some refs do make some awful errors so it is easy for the fixed ref to hide behind a litany of errors.  Indeed in a bent league, it is in the interest of the league to have some refs who are just not very good.   It is only when the research is done to show just how all the errors of one ref point in one direction, do we see quite what is going on.

Overall ref fixing is a very sophisticated system.  Not every match is fixed, not every shady decision is given in favour of one team, not every issue surrounds a major decision such as a penalty, the media generally ignore the idea, and the fans’ chants still suggest that incompetence is the key.

But we are making progress.  The media, fearing that they are being left behind, are starting to take note.   We can only hope that they don’t get told to pull out of the subject.

32 comments to How to fix a Premier League football match

  • WalterBroeckx

    Tony,
    you mentioned a very very important thing in your article. I quote: “.And there’s one more fact. Some refs do make some awful errors so it is easy for the fixed ref to hide behind a litany of errors. Indeed in a bent league, it is in the interest of the league to have some refs who are just not very good

    Now I have been informed that the PGMOL should send back refs who end in the last two places of the table of merit for referees back to the lower leagues and replace them by refs from the lower leagues who finish top in their merit table.

    But the refs that have finished bottom of that merit table for the last years…have never been relegated. I have heard that Probert is one of them (our Newcastle ref).

    So actually what you did say is happening. The PGMOL and the PL keep bad refs in the PL to cover up referee mistakes.

  • your really on point Tony.. Refs are the chief custodians of fixing a match to thier favourite teams…. i still nurse the pains of yesterday….

  • mohamed aziz

    MAY BE THE FA IS INOLVED IN THIS WHOLE SHAME AND CHOOSING WHICH REFEREE TO OFFICIATE WHICH GAME BECAUSE WE DONT WANT THAT TEAM TO CLINCH THE TITLE.IE MANCTY ARSENAL ARSENAL CHELSEA ARSENAL ASTON VILLA

  • dave clarke

    arsenal always have negative results when ref mike dean officiates their matches

  • nicky

    How bona fide is this “table of merit” for referees?
    Any input by managers of clubs can be disregarded due to blinkered opinions.
    Referees being vetted by their peers give rise to automatic suspicion.
    So what value can be attached to this table?

  • marcus

    Yes Aziz is right. The first port of call in examining the rot in the English Game is the FA, they are the custodians of the British Game. I use the word custodian with grim apologies.

    However, because the UK media is truly awful, nothing more than a heavily controlled mouthpiece by and large, there has been very little examination of the FA.

    Football may be just a game, but it is a huge British institution with worldwide reach.

    Here is a toe in the pool of real journalism.

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/110043-david-gill-rafael-benitez-the-fa-and-man-united-fc

  • SouthernGunner

    You could perhaps add the Player Loaning system to this list too? Not only does it allow a clubs players playing against rivals in another squad, but it could give players the added incentive to win against title rivals for the sake of their mother club, thus having an affect on rivals results when playing other teams. Quite shrewd.

    An example of this would be the case of Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea player on loan at Everton). Not only did Arsenal drop points against Chelsea (his mother club) this week, but against Everton too (2 ppints from a possible 6). Were the rules amended so that he was eligable to play against Chelsea in their matches against Everton, he may not have bean loaned out to them.

    I feel cases like this are massively overlooked & can have an influence on a seasons outcome.

  • SouthernGunner

    Regarding my last post, an interesting article by Martin Keown touches on the subject of how loan signings can give their mother clubs an advantage.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2523393/MARTIN-KEOWNS-BOOT-ROOM-How-loans-skilfully-placed-cause-maximum-damage-rivals.html

  • Mandy Dodd

    This is an extremely well written and valid article. You are spot on regarding the difference between spot fixing involving corrupt syndicates and a few lower league players , mainly foreign chaps….and a home grown system that goes right to the top of football and other establishments. The second option is the corruption that dare not speak its name in our media even in middle of the road arsenal blogs….yet at least though I gather the Italians have a word for it. Option two is the only explanation for what we see week in week out , what unto ld quantify and what the media and those involved in the system brush under the carpet. The way Arsenal are treated we can proudly assert they are certainly outside and such corrupt little system. Annoying as they are the refs are just cheaply bought and easily compromised pawns in the grand scheme of things. And when things go wrong they will be among the most compromised and punished. Anyone who doubts this needs to remember the game is governed by one of the most corrupt organisations on earth. The corruption goes right to the top but there are plenty of insiders and hangers on doing very nicely. But they will tell you it is just a few guys you have never heard of spot fixing. You may think I am a mad conspiracy theory type with nothing to back all of this up but all mentioned here has already happened in a developed European country in a league with less money swishing around than our current EPL

  • gouresh

    Any1 watched cricket? 1 can bet on each and everything, right from the weather, the pitch, no balls, wide you name it. One can see this happening in EPL.

  • marcus

    The betting scandal may even just be disinfo/weapons of distraction.

    Corporate corruption is usually a merry-go-round of backhanders, bungs, promotions, bunga bunga parties, and so forth. Quid pro quo and all that.

    We know very very little about the characters in the FA, or for that matter, the refs. And that is the way they like it. (Halsey take 50k and zip it chum)

    Cronyism, I suspect that is all this is. Or Calpolicelli as the Itis call it. Crony capitalism is destroying markets, especially in the west, and the same can be said for football. Its another market where the pigs have got their snouts stuck in the trough.

    I’d just love to see all these people brought to book, I really would

  • marcus

    The big problem in the UK is that our press is so dire to the point that RT runs a show dedicated to the UK. ‘Going Underground’ I think. By the Same token, I wouldn’t mind seeing an investigative journalism programme from abroad dealing with football in the uk.All part of being a global brand eh?

  • Al the Gooner

    http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/a-correction-on-referee-mike-deans-arsenal-record/

    “A correction on referee Mike Dean’s Arsenal record”…?
    from @Orbinho

  • Florian

    Hm, re the number of games between us and Manc/Manu/Chavski lately, it would be really interesting to know how many of those games HAVEN’T been with Mike Dean officiating. And how does our record without Mike Dean compare with the 0/5/6 with him.

  • bob

    After the match, Arsene deftly indicts The Dean for malfeasance without appearing to. Behold: ““On the pitch it looked bad, but the referee was in a good position.”

  • WalterBroeckx

    And it would be interesting to find out how many penalties he gave against us, red cards in those games…

  • bob

    marcus,
    Pigs are smart, compassionate, and intelligent. Nothing like the Riley-ites.

  • bob

    Maureen is such mind-fucking opportunistic filth (exactly Al Pacino playing Satan in the movie ‘The Devil’s Advocate’, except he IS Satan): “I prefer English blood in football. English blood in this situation is: ‘Come on, let’s go.’ Mikel’s tackle is hard and aggressive but football is for men or for women with fantastic attitude. It’s true.” Suddenly it’s like he’s English. Then, again, I suppose he is.

  • bob

    OR, as 7amkickoff puts it:
    “It’s no surprise that Jose Mourinho draped himself in the Union Jack and proclaimed that the foreigners “like to cry” about hard tackles and went on to praise Mike Dean for his officiating. Mourinho has a vested interest in keeping Mike Dean in his pocket and besides, Mourinho knew that Dean’s no call on Willian’s foul, Mikel’s foul, and Ivanovich’s dangerously high boot earned his team a point.”

  • bob

    I know it’s been linked to before here, but, if you haven’t as yet, it’s quite refreshing to read an actual fair-minded account of the REFSHITE that was foisted upon us by the unholy trinity Maureen-Oh/Dean/Riley. Recommended as a lump of coal in Chelski’s Christmas stocking. (From The Independent:) http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/arsenal-0-chelsea-0-match-report-gunners-miss-chances-to-go-back-to-top-of-the-table-9023189.html

  • Sammy The Snake

    Only the weak will spot fix thru a player to get a few thousand quids in winnings.
    The big guys will aim at creating a worldwide marketing machine (man united comes to mind) which requires fundamental “controlling” of the results. This can only be done from the top, and the ref system is the way.
    It makes me sad to repeat what I have said before: EPL = WWE

  • ARSENAL 13

    @gouresh,

    You walk into a pub in India (bar as it is called in India) during a cricket match, any match even if it is a recorded game, you’ll see a lot of betting going on. People bet on each ball. Shit loads of money change hands. And the biggies do it all on phone (intercity gambling).

    Even people on the streets do it. I’ve seen people bet Rs 100 (ie 1 pound) on 6/no ball/4/wicket/runout…… All this when betting is illegal in India.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Two refrees are having a day out at the zoo.
    As they pass the gorilla’s cage, one of them notices that the silverback has a huge erection.
    “Do you think he would mind if I touched it?” says one.
    “Try it,” says his mate.
    He puts his hand through the bars and is promptly grabbed by the gorilla, who pulls him into the cage, throws him to the ground and shags the living daylights out of him.
    A week later he gets a hospital visit from his fellow uphill gardener.
    “Does it hurt?” asks his mate.
    “Of course it fucking hurts, he hasn’t called me once, he hasn’t fucking written…………”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A dad wakes up, and decides to take his kids to the zoo. So, they jump in the car, and he starts the engine.
    He drives halfway down the street, and then; his daughter says “Wow, look at all those gorillas”.
    Then the dad replies, “We haven’t even left London yet”.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Paddy takes his son to the zoo. When they get to the elephants the zoo keeper says ,” This elephant can tell how old you are with one look.”
    Paddys son shouts, ” How old am I?”
    The elephant stamps his foot 6 times.” Wow ,” says Paddy, “that’s right my boy is 6!!
    Paddy shouts to the elephant, ” How old am I? ”
    The elephant farts and stamps his foot twice. ” Be Jesus!”, says Paddy,” He’s right, I’m Farty two!!”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Guys , my take on this is that no matter what facts we put out there that the EPL is fixed or that Arsenal is being screwed over , there is someone who would give ‘facts’ of their own . Not only to keep us down but also to pour scorn on those who don’t toe the line .
    We need doublespeak and humour to fight them . I would suggest we rehire Billy the Dawg and make him editor in chief of ‘ THE EPL IS NOT FIXED ‘ blog.
    I’d contribute by taking ‘friendly ‘ pokes at our intended subjects ; a more than occassional ‘stab ‘ at the sweet FA , UEFA , FIFA and the usual clowns at PMOGL ; some eye gouging of the sycopants and well time kick to the nads of
    dissenters .
    Lets make fun of them and bleed them dry in their lighter vein!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    As a regular feature we can have a ‘ Moanrinho says the darnest things ‘ feature , where…. , well you know !

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahYtEiW7Iq4

  • gouresh

    @ARSENAL 13. I am from India and I know what happens. The 1990’s match fixing scandal is still fresh in my mind. My father used to do a lot of betting and when I was a boy I loved Sunil Gavaskar. My father used to say, this match he will score 50+, or get out before 50 etc and nine times out ten, this used to happen. This sort of betting is rampant in Indian cricket because is the equivalent of EPL here. Anyone denying that the EPL is not fixed needs their head examined.

  • blacksheep63

    I think we might be able to orchestrate a campaign to change the rules slightly. There is a problem for managers (or indeed players) who criticize referees as they may attract an FA charge. However, if clubs were allowed to cite opposition players (Mikel would be an obvious example) within 24 hours of a match (as they do in Rugby Union) this would force the FA to look at refereeing on a regular (indeed weekly) basis. This could put refs under a more direct scrutiny and may also lead to a more systematic review of other decisions (penalties, bookings, etc).
    The other (more populist measure) might be for football writers to award refs a score out of ten as they often do with players. Again, if this were to catch on certain refs might well be highlighted and Untold’s suggestions might begin to hit home.
    happy xmas Untolders!

  • Sammy The Snake

    Why can’t all/some supporters have banners next time Dean is in town stating some facts like he hasn’t awarded a penalty to Arsenal in xxx number of games?!

  • bob

    Sammy the Snake,
    And how’s about a sea of home-made red cards, to wield in unison at each glimpse of refshite? (Unless the ref is pitch-perfect – to sounds other than Riley’s chain.)

  • Sav from Australia

    We should start a supporters club dedicated to educating on this issue. If the emirates crowd is educated as to what’s going on then surely banners and changs will follow.

    You can fool some people some time…but you can’t fool all the people all the time!

    Top article!