‘Every FIFPro representative should read my new book’, Declan Hill says. On Monday, the investigative journalist officially launched his book ‘The Insider’s Guide to Match-Fixing in Football’, in which he presents the research for his successful doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford.
‘I’ve worked a long time to keep this book as simple as possible and not too academic’, Hill says in an exclusive interview with FIFPro. ‘My research contains a lot of good and strong information. It is a huge step forward in defining match-fixing and very useful for everyone involved in the fight against it’.
Hill’s book is an analysis of the motivations, the mechanisms and the methods within match-fixing. It examines key questions like
- why do football players fix matches?
- is violence used against referees and players to make them fix matches?
- how is fixing different from cheating?
- why do some rich, strong teams bother to bribe poor, weak teams?
- why are some games fixed, but not others?
- why do some leagues have more match corruption than others?
The final chapter examines the most important question:
- how can an honest sports administrator prevent match-fixing?
The Insider’s Guide to Match-Fixing in Football is Hill’s second book on match-fixing. In 2008 he published the bestseller ’The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime’. Since then he has built a reputation as an expert in match-fixing.
In his first book, Hill wrote about the phenomenon of match-fixing. In his second book, he describes the reasons people (players and referees) get involved in match-fixing, based on numerous interviews and confessions from fixers and victims, and based on his own statistical research.
Why did you write this new book?
‘The problem is, when you know a lot about a certain subject, you take it for granted that everyone else has the same knowledge. Apparently not everyone knows as much about this subject as I do. Match-fixing is a controversial subject. It is surrounded by scandals, rumours and guesses. In my investigation I tried to make clear what the facts are. My methods and my research are clear: you can take these numbers to the bank.’
‘People ask me which the worst league in the world is. I really don’t know. The difficulty is that people are hiding the facts about match-fixing. For example, in Russia there are very few match-fixing cases reported. If you look at the number of reported cases, then the situation in Germany should be far worse than the situation in Russia. But in Germany they are investigating match-fixing, that’s why there are so many reported cases in that country.’
Did you expect these results before you started your research?
‘The real surprise was the violence that the players and the referees have to deal with. The violence only occurs in the second stage. At first, the players and referees are approached without violence being used. The fixers all seem very friendly, they are trying to build a friendly relationship. That is how most players and referees get involved. But when the players and the referees have a change of mind and want to get out of match-fixing, that is when the violence occurs. Then they are confronted with serious violence, which can be very frightening. I have many true stories about this.’
Hill discovered more interesting facts. He found proof that it’s an incorrect assumption that the younger players are the most vulnerable to match-fixers. It’s the older players who are the most vulnerable, he has ascertained. The average age of a player involved in match-fixing is 26.8 years. Until now, experts assumed that young players would be the most likely to manipulate matches. Many education programmes were designed to inform and warn young players.
Another important factor is the non-payment of players’ salaries. Hill: ‘This book proves there is one key factor: when the clubs are not paying their players on time, the players are at far greater risk of being approached by match-fixers and are much more vulnerable to becoming involved in match-fixing. This is very clear, the evidence I have is robust: if the players are not treated as professionals, if there is no professional atmosphere, then the problem of match-fixing is much bigger.'
'People start match-fixing due to this disrespect of professional athletes'.
‘Players over 25 years who have not been paid are the key targets’, Hill states.
What is your advice to FIFPro and its member players associations worldwide?
‘Every single FIFPro representative should read this book. All the people who are involved in putting together education programmes or campaigns to protect players from match-fixers should know how the enemy goes to work. This book will supply the intelligence they can use for their work.’
‘I appreciate the work FIFPro is doing in trying to combat match-fixing. Your campaign makes so much more sense than the campaigns by some of the other authorities. Their approach is fundamentally wrong. They are basically blaming the athletes. They are saying that match-fixing exists due to the lack of ethics of the players. I think that it is an insult to all professional athletes to tell them that they have no ethics. These authorities should not blame the players. They should ask the players if they have been paid, if they are treated like professional athletes. They should be asking whether they could help the players who do not receive their wages by putting pressure on the football associations or football leagues.’
‘It is not the players, but the officials and the clubs driving match-fixing. The players are at the bottom of the fix.’
- Published: 14 November 2013