Football match fixing; a modern day problem

Picture of Luke Patel

Luke Patel

The recent arrest of six men by the National Crime Agency over match fixing allegations has taken the football headlines from the back of the newspapers to the front pages.

Ex-Premier League player Delroy Facey is the most notable of those alleged and his picture is being widely used in many press articles.

So what are the legal implications for Delroy Facey? In Criminal proceedings Facey could be charged under the Bribery Act along with any of the following; money-laundering, fraud or conspiracy offences. The Bribery Act has a 10 year maximum custodial sentence and large fines at the discretion of the court.

In Civil proceedings individuals would be subject to disciplinary procedures from their club and penalties could be sanctioned by the Football Association. If clubs were discovered to have played any part in an event of match-fixing they could be liable for all or a combination of the following; points-deductions, large fines, possible relegation and possible insolvency. If the match-fixing became a national scandal commercial partners and sponsors such as those who supported Lance Armstrong through his Tour de France seven victory reign would be queuing up to file their own law suits.

So if we look at some recent examples of how players who have been caught match fixing have been dealt with. The Football Association suspended and fined four players for betting on the outcome of the match between Accrington Stanley and Bury in May 2008. James Harris of Accrington Stanley received the longest suspension, one year and fined £5k after the FA’s Regulatory Commission delivered a guilty verdict that Harris had bet on his team’s match against Bury (Bury coming out 2-0 winners).

So perhaps the deterrent does not outweigh the costs. The average salary for a conference player is £500 a week, with this being their only income as 21 of the 24 clubs are now full-time professional the Telegraph’s Singaporean fixer has quoted players throwing a game for as little as £70k.

So if we took the fine and suspension Harris suffered, his loss of earnings at the conference average would amount to £24k for the year put on top his fine of £5k his total loss would only be £29k. 29k is still less than 50% of the total haul he would have potentially received if the Telegraph’s whistleblower is to be believed. This is before you factor in the £2K he staked on his side to lose. Arguably the costs don’t outweigh the benefits.

But it hasn’t always been like this has it? A former England centre-half by the name of Peter Swan had won 19 caps in a row and many including Jimmy Greaves say Swan would have been preferred in defence to England’s Jack Charlton in the 1966 World Cup winning side. Swan would be remembered as the most high profile name in what the People newspaper described as “The Biggest Sports Scandal of the Century”.

Swan bet against his own team Sheffield Wednesday to lose away to Ipswich Town. He placed a £50 bet at odds of 2-1 that they would lose on the fateful day, 1st December 1962. The Bookmakers lost £35k on that match, Swan lost his career. Swan was given a four-month jail sentence for conspiracy to defraud and a life ban from football (The ban was eventually lifted in 1972 following lobbying from the MP Joe Ashton and Sir Matt Busby). The financial penalty was two weeks’ wages and Swan was ordered to pay £100 towards his legal costs ironically the same amount which he profited from the bet itself.

Perhaps the threat of a life ban needs to be reinstated as the financial penalties alone are not deterring players from betting against their own team to lose?

Luke Patel
Solicitor Partner
Commercial Dispute Resolution Department  
0113 227 9316
LPatel@LawBlacks.com

Gallery | This entry was posted in Commercial Dispute Resolution. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s