Football Australia’s Secret Agreements with Bookmakers Raise Concerns about Match-Fixing and Integrity of the Game


Last night, an investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) revealed that Football Australia (FA) had entered into secret agreements with major international bookmakers to share in the profits from bets placed on amateur soccer games in Australia. The agreements, obtained under Freedom of Information laws, indicate that FA receives a percentage of every bet placed or a portion of the bookmaker's profit. This revelation has sparked concerns about match-fixing and the potential impact of gambling on the integrity of the game.

Concerns about Match-Fixing and Gambling Impact:

The investigation conducted by ABC found that FA's agreements with bookmakers permit betting on games at all levels, including amateur games involving teenagers. This raises concerns about match-fixing and highlights the potential risks associated with gambling in the realm of local football competitions. The fact that people from around the world can place bets on games without knowledge of the teams or players involved further exacerbates integrity concerns. Well-known and reputable online sports betting sites were mentioned. They are all regulated by licenced authorities.

Growing Industry of Data Collection for Betting:

The ABC report also exposed the presence of an officially sanctioned data scout from Sportradar, a Swiss corporation specializing in collecting live data at sporting events, at a low-league soccer game. This data scout, accredited by the governing body, suggests the existence of a burgeoning industry that collects data from local football games specifically for betting purposes. This development adds another layer to the concerns surrounding the impact of gambling on the sport's integrity.

Calls for Action and Review of Policies:

Jim Simos, the president of South Springvale Football Club, expressed his concern about match-fixing and advocated for limitations on betting in local football games. He highlights the unsettling fact that individuals worldwide can bet on games they know nothing about. Additionally, FA faces mounting pressure to address the issue after the ABC investigation. Consequently, FA has announced its intention to review its relationship with bookmakers and implement measures to safeguard the integrity of the game.

Magnitude of Betting on Amateur Australian Soccer Matches:

Surprisingly, people from various regions, particularly in Asia, engage in betting on amateur Australian soccer matches. The bets placed can reach up to $1 million per game, a figure that astonishes those unfamiliar with the industry. The allure of amateur sports for punters stems from the perceived unpredictability compared to professional matches.

FA profits from online gambling
Data Scout at a soccer game shown on ABC

Key Findings and Pressure on FA:

Key findings from the ABC investigation include FA's secret agreements with major international bookmakers, enabling betting on amateur games at all levels. FA has defended these agreements, citing the need for revenue generation in support of the sport. Nevertheless, the ABC investigation has prompted FA to review its gambling policies and take measures to protect the game's integrity.

Similar Agreements and Match-Fixing Concerns in Other Sporting Codes:

FA's agreements with bookmakers are not unique, as other Australian sporting codes such as the NRL, AFL, and Cricket Australia also have similar arrangements. These agreements contribute millions of dollars in revenue annually to the respective sporting codes. The expansion of the gambling market has raised concerns about match-fixing, with notable cases in cricket and tennis highlighting the urgency to address the issue.

Striking a Balance between Revenue Generation and Integrity:

The ABC investigation has placed pressure on sporting codes to reassess their gambling policies. Some codes, like the NRL, have already taken steps to combat match-fixing, such as prohibiting players from betting on any NRL games. It is crucial for sporting codes to find a balance between generating revenue through gambling and safeguarding the integrity of the sport, ensuring that the latter is not compromised for financial gains.

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