Match fixing in football was headline news again this morning as six people were reportedly arrested by officers from the National Crime Agency in the U.K for their involvement in match-fixing in English football.
This got me thinking about the incentives match fixers face. Economists have investigated criminal behaviour before, with the most well-known model of crime and punishment being Gary Becker's rational choice approach. Put simply, Becker viewed economic agents as purely rational from start to finish and that engaging in criminal activity was a question of the costs and benefits an individual faces.
In the Sky Sports report on the same matter, it is reported that the Daily Telegraph secretly taped a match-fixer and recorded him speaking of the high costs of match fixing in the U.K, when he suggested that “In England the cost is very high... usually for the players it is £70,000.”
By Becker’s logic one would assume that top tier games around Europe are not subject to match fixing as the costs to
compensate (already highly paid players) would need to be excessive to convince them to stake their reputation.
As the benefits of a fixed match in the betting market can be the same regardless of who is playing ( i.e. a 2/1 Arsenal win pay-offs the same as a 2/1 Northampton win), match fixers have a far greater incentive to target lower tier fixtures where costs are lower as compensation for the players would not have to be as great. Also these games would not have the eyes of the world watching. The only greater cost is that a ‘big bet’ on an obscure match is more likely to set off alarm bells for the bookies.
To a degree the markets offered by the bookmakers can encourage match fixing, so supply may induce demand – below is a picture of amateur matches in Ireland on this Sunday that Paddy Power is betting on.
If match fixing is going to happen given the costs and benefits faced by both parties involved its more likely than not going to happen in matches similar to below.