Just how many matches are fixed?

Jose Mourinho said yesterday that he thought the ref was biased against his team in their game against Manchester United – and the big news today was that for some reason he is not going to be sanctioned by UEFA.

Not that I want him sanctioned – but I just like to understand the rules.  Why not take action, when other managers get punished for complaining about the ref?

Trying to puzzle this out I got to thinking about the language that is used to hide the fact that things are not right in football.   Very few if any managers say that a ref was bribed by the opposition – they just say that he was incompetent or biased.   There seems to be no way of telling if the manager is going to be charged or not.

Unless it is the fact that they don’t charge a manager who says to them in private “I know the match was fixed”.

Oddly when a fixed match is spotted the press don’t talk about a game being fixed, rather they speak of “better irregularities”.   As if somehow that is the core of the matter, whereas the key issue is that a bunch of gamblers have paid a ref or some players to fix a result, and the players or ref have done it.

Saying “betting irregularities” seems to imply that the problem is not a football problem, but is a gambling problem.  But in fact it is always a football problem because it is people in football (the refs and the players) who accept the bribes.

Put another way: there will always be bribes offered in all walks of life.  That isn’t the issue.  The issue is, “are they accepted”.

That is what the match fixing issues in England in 1914 were all about, and it is what the match fixing in France and Italy were about more recently.  The acceptance of bribes.

The current match in question that was subject to “betting irregularities” was the 5th division game involving Weymouth and Rushden & Diamonds.   Weymouth’s players went on strike, so they put out their youth team, and lost 9-0.   I don’t know all the details of this, but I think it was widely known that the Weymouth players were on strike, and so they were not likely to win the game – and thus a lot of people got their bets in.  Nothing irregular there.   But supposing people were betting on 9-0 (ie not 8-0 or 9-1) at 2 million to one, or whatever.  Then we have another match fixing issue.

The fact that a special language has been erected to try and suggest that players and refs are not involved, makes me suspicious.  We’ve already covered the fact that the Italian match fixing scandal clearly spread to the Champions League but UEFA refused to take that up – obviously frightened that their financial mainstay would be tainted and their income reduced.

As I watch referees’ increasingly erratic performances I am increasingly convinced that matches are fixed – although I freely admit I have little concrete evidence.  It is merely that it has happened, it has clearly not always been properly investigated, and when Mourinho as good as damn it says, the ref was bought, no one takes action.

Funny old game.

Speaking of which – this saturday against Fulham there will be a new edition of Highbury High available from those jolly chaps who shout “Brand new edition of Highbury High” outside the ground.   There is, of course, a stunningly interesting article by myself therein, on three players, of one of whom the editor said (upon reading same) “I never thought I’d see his name in a fanzine again.”   Bet you can’t guess who it is.   Buy the mag on Saturday to find out.

Tony Attwood

5 Replies to “Just how many matches are fixed?”

  1. I suspect Tony, that you have no concret evidence.

    Tell you what though, Tim Howard conceeded two soft goals to Gerrard a bit earlier this season in successive matches. What would the odds have been on that?

  2. For Gooners this campaign has been pretty painful. We’ve seen our title hopes disappear in November and our Champions League place for next season is under threat.

    I, along with many other Gooners have been critical of Arsenal this season and Arsene Wenger has also been under the cosh at times. In my opinion the criticism has been deserved at times but maybe not all the time.

    Obviously there many Gooners unhappy at the moment, I’m not the happiest but lets just wait until the end of the season until we judge Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.

    It’s clear the squad isn’t the strongest we’ve had under Wenger but its what we have and nothing can be done about it now.

    Arsene Wenger should have strengthened the squad more than just Arshavin but he didn’t and he believes in this set of players even if some Gooners don’t. He has put his head on the chopping block and that’s why I say wait until the end of the season to judge if he is right.

    Who knows? We may well be Champions League or FA Cup winners by May!

    I understand it is frustrating at the moment. I’m frustrated because I see the performance of last night, the wins over Manchester United and Chelsea and then a defeat against Hull or Manchester City.

    The inconsistency can drive drive you mad but we are picking up now at the business end of the season. And I’m sure that we will qualify for the Champions League next season. I happen to believe we will win it this year!

    Of course I’m slightly concerned about Arsenal’s position in the league but I say only slightly because as I’ve said I’m quietly confident that we will finish in the top four despite how bleak our league position seems.

    Trophies are what we Gooners want and while we are still in with a shout for the FA Cup and Champions League we have the chance to achieve these targets.

    Granted the league position is far from what we want but I’m sure most Gooners would be satisfied with a top four finish and a trophy. I would have taken that at the beginning of the season.

    If we don’t succeed in getting into the Champions League next season or win a trophy then by all means Wenger and Arsenal will get plenty of flak and deservedly so. Until then lets just get behind the team and fingers crossed we can end up with a campaign that didn’t end too badly.

  3. “That is what the match fixing issues in England in 1914 were all about, and it is what the match fixing in France and Italy were about more recently. The acceptance of bribes.”


    If you’re going to write about this, PLEASE DO THE RESEARCH.

    Tony, I don’t have a problem with the general point of your article (I sometimes have the same suspicions), HOWEVER, if you’re going to write an article like this you really should do more detailed research on the subject. This is not the first time you’ve mentioned calciopoli and, like many others who haven’t read about the actual details of the scandal, you assume it was about BRIBING REFEREES WITH MONEY.


    That was the point about calciopoli that was unique about the scandal to investigative journalists writing about it. FOUR FOUR TWO did a very good piece on it.

    In early 2006, while investigating charges of doping in Italian football, Italian investigators (quite by accident) uncovered a number of telephone calls showing a thick network of corrupt relations between team managers and referee organisations–all controlled by Luciano Moggi, chairman of Juventus. The telephone interceptions showed that certain teams had rigged games by selecting favourable referees — all under the supervision of Moggi.


    Instead, pressure was exerted thru promises of career promotion, threats to referees of their careers (sometimes extended to the careers of famil members), blackmail, use of personal influence and favors, etc. In one famous incident, 3 dissenting referees were locked in a bathroom and told they would not be allowed to come out until they agreed to play ball.

    If a referee did not cooperate, he would be shut out of Serie A and shunted down to lower divisions.

    The people running this network DELIBERATELY did not bribe refs with money — they were too smart for that. They knew that would be easily discovered, much too risky. Had they been bribing refs with money the network would’ve been discovered long before 2006. It’s no accident that the investigators discovered the network by…well…accident because there was no concrete evidence for the corruption of referees and the incestuous relationship between clubs and referees. All over Italy people had long suspected something was going on because of so many skewed results but no one could ever find anything concrete to back up those suspicions. It was a network of cronyism, career promotion and personal favors.

    Throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s, Juve won Serie A year after year after year as a result of this network. However, in the same period, Juve did very poorly in the CL — something many in Italy often pointed out. That’s because the network did not extend to the CL so Juve could not manipulate it.

  4. I fully accept the point made here – it was a stupid slip of mine to suggest the Italian issue was the same as the others. And indeed as I am reminded here, the Italian model for corruption is a possible model for corruption in the UK. Although as has also been pointed out I have no evidence – I just have observation, and a view on the language being used.

    But I’m not so happy about the suggestion that if one wants to write something one has to do enolugh research to ensure that one always gets it right.

    This blog was started to provide a balance, by giving a very positive take on Arsenal and Wenger, and to find out if there was an audience for such a blog. Having proved there is such an audience, I have subsequently meandered into other areas that I am interested – including things like club finances and (more recently) corruption.

    I do research, but also remember this is a free service offered to those who want to read it – it is not a commercial proposition – I do it inbetween my other commitments. And although I certainly do not throw down things willy nilly, the fact is that when I get it wrong, I am corrected on these pages, and am always pleased so to be.

    I have spent the best part of a year researching what happened to Arsenal in 1910 for my book “Making the Arsenal” – and although it is now approaching publication, I am still finding the odd point on which one more item of information becomes available, proving something in my book is wrong. And that’s after a year’s hard work on a specific area.

    The choice is to stay with the known, the every day, on which facts are all agreed, or to venture into other areas, do one’s best, and then be corrected when a slip is made. I choose the latter – it’s more exciting.

    Final point NYMarcus wrote separately to ask why his post was held in moderation. I’ve written on this before, but here’s a quick summary.

    To help avoid spam appearing here, everyone’s first two posts are moderated by me, and after that they go into automatic moderation. It seems to work ok because we get very few if any spam pieces through. Normally the holding in moderation only lasts an hour, although on match days and days when I am working away from my office it can be longer.


  5. Fair enuf, Tony, I take your point. It’s just frustrating to see so many people talk about calciopoli in the same way, as if it was all about refs taking money.

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