Europol Publishes New Report on Match-Fixing in Sports

  • Europol's report estimates crime groups make €120m per year from match-fixing
  • Lower levels of sports are the most common targets; match-fixing occurs most in soccer
  • Europol reiterates that match-fixing is a criminal issue and not a sports integrity issue
Europol sign
Europol has issued a new report that shows key findings about match-fixing in sports and makes suggestions on how to combat the problem. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A serious issue

Europol is calling for better cooperation between the private and public sectors to help crack down on match-fixing and related betting in sports. 

The European Union law enforcement agency published a new report on August 5 called The Involvement of Organized Crime Groups in Sports Corporation that outlines different findings relating to match-fixing across the globe. 

criminal proceeds each year from match-fixing are approximately €120m

It cites data from Sportradar, highlighting how the criminal proceeds each year from match-fixing are approximately €120m ($141.4m). Organized crime groups are working on a transnational level to carry out this corruption. 

Targets for crime groups

It is more common for criminal groups to target competitions at the lower levels of a given sport, with soccer being the most popular sport for match-fixing. Athletes and officials at lower levels are more likely to take part in match-fixing because of low salaries. There is also less attention on these events, making it easier to fly under the radar.

Incidents of match-fixing in tennis have increased in recent years. In 2016, only about 11 matches were suspected of being manipulated. This number jumped all the way up to 236 contests the following year. Most of the time, match-fixing is separate from the betting; bets are usually placed on in-play markets.

There was also an acknowledgment in the report about online gambling dangers, explaining that there are links to sports manipulation around the world. Crime groups misuse identities to open online betting and e-wallet accounts to place their wagers. 

Increasing awareness and cooperation

Europol believes match-fixing should not be seen as a predominantly sports integrity issue. Instead, the law enforcement agency wants the issue to be seen as a serious criminal offense that is carried out by crime groups. Better cooperation between private and public sectors on the issue would help to “ensure a consistent multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approach.”

more development of protected systems and mechanisms for reporting

Relevant stakeholders include law enforcement, sports leagues, judicial authorities, regulatory bodies, betting operators, the general public, and private companies that offer integrity and betting monitoring services. There also needs to be more development of protected systems and mechanisms for reporting and whistle blowing. 

The report concluded: “It is paramount that MS and involved Third Parties would address and prioritize this challenging crime area more effectively as a way to tackle OCGs operating in the EU and beyond.”