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Features, articles and opinions on football’s biggest stories

Barry Landy’s delightful insight is hard to beat, making Down in the Box a weekly read for me. Rio Coimbra The Elastico



Football’s match fixing allegations are back but they never really went away Spot-fixing, three years ago found to be rife in cricket, now rears it’s loathsome, if looming, head in football. On the face of it, it seems unthinkable that anyone can profit in such vast sums on matters so trivial in any game, no matter what the level. Walk into your local bookmakers and attempt to place a four, even five, figure sum on the recipient of the first throw in, corner or booking in a Football League or non-league game, the wager would not be accepted. The cashier would refuse having had their suspicion well and truly aroused, if you’ll excuse the unfortunate phrasing. Writing this column ahead of a return to a full programme of Football League fixtures today, browsing the average betting website, I found in excess of 100 markets available for each Championship match this weekend. One hundred, ranging from outrights and the ever popular goalscorer coupons to first throw in and total number of throw ins and odds on individual players picking up a card. The vast majority of markets are just and legitimate, a means for the considered football fan to inject a modicum of extra excitement atop their weekly pilgrimage. Form dictates selection for most – a striker on a hot streak, a mean defence, or a team with a knack for dramatic late goals – but others have no basis of analysis. An early boot of the ball into touch or an unjustifiable, rush of blood to the head type late challenge remains solely at the

discretion of an individual.

potentially devastating iceberg.

Is it new? No, Matt Le Tissier, in his Taking Le Tiss autobiography, admitted to trying to concede an early throw in while playing for Southampton against Wimbledon in 1995. Remarkably, for a man of his ability, he miscued his effort and it stayed in play.

Why so devastating? If British punters can’t benefit from fixed elements of a game, who does? Asian betting syndicates operate in vast, unregulated markets, so we’re told. In an age of the global game and with all four Premier and Football Leagues piped around the world going into 2014, it’s little wonder international exploitation of the game is a viable enterprise.

“Obviously I’d never have done anything that might have affected the outcome of the match, but I couldn’t see a problem with making a few quid on the time of the first throw-in,” he recalled. The very option of placing a bet on a booking, or concession of a corner or throw in invites suspicion. These outcomes are at the folly of men with the ability to affect them and often, the financial reward on offer far outweighs any risk of getting caught. An undercover newspaper reporter, in exposing a few, is only the tip of a widespread and

Are fans being cheated? Of course they are. The relationship between players and supporters is as distant as ever, don’t let the advent of Twitter fool you. To think fans are paying to see certain players illegally supplement their incomes while in turn undermining the integrity of the game is sickening. Harmless? No chance. Most hurtful to football is that it’s been allowed to go this far with little or no deterrent.


Notts County 2013/14  
Notts County 2013/14