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Jumping into Fixing


There is a wave of globalized match-fixing occurring in football. In the last few years, there have been investigations and scandals in dozens of different countries in every continent. However, no academic has explored why the players agree to fix these football matches? They display few of the characteristics of normal deviancy: the athletes have high societal and sexual status. They are, purportedly, well-rewarded for their work. In previous work, it has been shown that the athletes are rarely coerced into fixing, so why would they fix matches? In this paper, the author uses both quantitative and qualitative (including interviews with some athletes) methods to show that fixing is largely the purview of older players nearing the end of their careers.

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  1. Because Asian sports books, particularly the illegal ones do not open their finances to scrutiny it is difficult to say which of these large estimates is correct. However, the Hong Kong Jockey Club executive was quoted as saying, “FIFA boasts about $4 billion dollars at the World Cup; we in Asia have a word for the day when the market reaches $4 billion dollars, we call it – Thursday.” (Hill and Longman 2014)

  2. This paper does not examine corruption among referees or match-officials.

  3. Merton’s article “Social Structure and Anomie” that outlined this theory was immensely influential and, at one point, was the single most frequently cited and reprinted paper in American sociology (Cole 1975). The article and Merton’s later modifications have produced its own school of though in criminology – “Strain Theory” - and a host of modern-day disciples (see for example, Adler et al. 1995).

  4. The neo-Marxist School of Criminology does not seem to help either when examining this question. For its proponents, like Young or Taylor, (Walton et al. 1994) criminal deviancy can, at times, be explained by “social exclusion” or a variation on Merton’s theory of disadvantaged working class youth. But again, professional football players, although mostly from the working class, are simply not excluded from society (SO1, SO5, May 2005).

  5. Both the Singapore and English Football Associations view potentially corrupt players as directly comparable to white-collar criminals. In an internal document circulated by their disciplinary committee they specifically compare potential match-fixing players who share information with corruptors as “analogous” to stock market insider trading (Zainal, Mohamed, Ali, Mohamed and Lomri, Ali - Disciplinary Hearing. no1-3/2003, 6. Disciplinary Committee, Football Association of Singapore 2003).

  6. ‘Purportedly’ because some of the interview subjects were themselves accused of being corrupt.

  7. An odds compiler is the person who calculates the odds that the gambling ‘book’ is made on. They usually have a great deal of experience in mathematics and are trying to achieve a ‘perfect book’ – not as generally supposed where there is a perfect prediction of who will the win match, rather a good odds compiler is trying to set the odds on a sporting event so that both sides are equally backed.

  8. Including 2 diplomats, 3 businessmen, 2 members of the Malaysian royal family, an academic, a politician and a political dissident.

  9. Please see the acknowledgement section for the entire list of translators and languages.

  10. The construction of the database owes much to the advice of Johann Lambsdorff of the University of Passau and Marc Carinici of The theoretical model comes from the chapter by Michael Biggs in Making Sense of Suicide Missions (Biggs 2005).

  11. The same information exists for the Italian league, the Serie A, but was deliberately excluded from analysis as so many matches in the league that season were shown to have been fixed.

  12. This player was not given any information about the corruptors.

  13. For a fuller discussion of this method see: Atkinson Atkinson 1998; Denzin Denzin 1989; or the classic, The Polish Peasant by Znaniecki Florian 1918.

  14. The ages of four of the players that are unknown have been excluded, and this figure does not include the Malaysian confessions that may have been included in Seneviratne’s work.

  15. The average professional football player, generally, starts his paid employment in the years between 19 and 22 (SO1; SO5; English Football Association 1962).

  16. Katz has other – American – criminals expressing similar views (Katz 1988, 215).

  17. See also Wheeler et al. 1988, for a discussion of similar themes.


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A great thank you to the many translators for all their time and work on the confession database. Their kindness is deeply appreciated: Kess t’Hooft, Stefan De Wachter, Riina Ristikari, Srefania Battistelli, Graziano Lolli, Andrea Patacconi, Julika Erfurt, Thomas Gerken, Franziska Telschow, Sohnke Vosgerau, Natasha Gorina, Ekaterina Korobtseva, Ekaterina Kravchenko, Svetlana Guzeev, Eugene Demchenko, Alisa Voznaya, Maria Semenova and Emre Ozcan.

A thank you as well to the two anonymous reviewers of an early draft of this paper: their comments were invaluable. Any errors or omission are the author’s fault. Also to Professors Johann Lambsdorff and Michael Biggs for their help in structuring the various databases. A big debt of gratitude to my two supervisors Anthony Heath and Diego Gambetta for their great skill in guiding this work to its completion.

Finally a thank you to the fixers/corruptors who risked so much to speak to me about their methods of work and success in their field.

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Correspondence to Declan Hill.

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Hill, D. Jumping into Fixing. Trends Organ Crim 18, 212–228 (2015).

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  • Football
  • Organized crime
  • Mafia
  • Asia
  • World cup
  • Globalization
  • Gambling
  • Betting
  • Fixing
  • Match-fixing