Every now and again, there is a question about corruption in football. The latest one is in Spain, where a couple of clubs are being investigated by the police for throwing a game after receiving bribes from murky, far east betting syndicates who supposedly made a killing on betting on the more unlikely result (and winning, of course).
I don’t really want to focus on whether this has in fact occurred or not (although, it seems to me very difficult to throw a ‘team’ game, as opposed to an individual game, e.g. tennis). What I want to focus on is the morality and legality of it all.
Firstly, from a moral point of view, I expect there are few people who think accepting such bribes is all above board. But how’s about from a legal point of view: does it really amount to a crime?
Imagine, someone comes up to you and offers you some money to have a bad day at work. So you take the money, have a stinker of a day and someone somewhere betting on this makes some money; effectively off someone else betting on you having a good day (as you normally would).
Is that a crime? Would you expect the rozzers to be knocking on your door for what you’ve done?
As I say, it’s not nice. You’re deliberately short changing your employer. But surely, this would be between you and your employer (and if he found out, for example, you couldn’t really complain if he gave you the sack).
Maybe someone who lost money after you had a bad day might come up to you and accuse you of doing so deliberately. But you could, being entirely reasonable, turn round and say ‘What business is it of yours if I have a bad day or not? If you’ve bet on it and lost money, tough luck. Serves you right!’.
Well surely it’s the same situation for a footballer.
Ah, but you might say, the footballer has a duty to be loyal and give his all for the fans. Well, a moral duty, maybe. But his performance on the pitch is something between him and his club. As mentioned above, if found out, he might reasonably be sacked.
And the club may have a similar responsibility to its national football federation, for example. But again, that would be up to the federation to sanction the club or not.
But where is the role in all of this for the police?
Nobody is forcing people to bet on football matches. If they lose some money in a betting shop due to some skulduggery from players or clubs (or football associations), maybe they can claim compensation from the betting company. This would depend on the company policy or a desire from it to pay up and avoid bad publicity.
But I still see no role in all of this for the police.
Morally, I think most people think it’s not nice. However, without any kind of binding contract somewhere along the line, it should not be illegal; and therefore should not be grounds for Messr PC Plod to be stomping around in his size nines.