The results of a new three-year study by the University of Nicosia Research Foundation, funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ program were released on Wednesday. The study looked into match-fixing within friendly soccer matches and revealed a troubling discovery.
Friendly Soccer Matches Need Stricter Regulations
From 2016 through 2020, there have been more than 250 friendly soccer matches involving European clubs that showed signs of suspicious activity, according to the whitepaper. Some 700 soccer players from Malta, Greece, and Cyprus were surveyed as a part of the study.
Surprisingly, 26.5% of them said that they played in a friendly match where they suspected manipulation. Moreover, the whitepaper found that 26.3% of the invitations to manipulate or fix a friendly match were advanced by club officials, while some 15% were done by fellow players.
The new research found that one of the prime reasons for the high number of suspected fixed friendly matches is the lack of sporting governance and regulation. According to the new study, the process for establishing the responsibility for friendly matches is being slowed by soccer federations, as well as stakeholders. Additionally, the study said that some soccer federations in Europe do not even track the locations of the clubs for pre-season and mid-winter games.
Poorly Regulated, Unregulated Markets May Impact the Integrity of Friendly Matches
The negative influence on friendly matches is also fueled by betting markets around the world. Some of those markets are not regulated properly or located within jurisdictions that are tied to criminal activity. This factor further exposes friendly matches to the risk of match-fixing.
Moreover, the study acknowledged that unregulated or poorly regulated markets do not report suspicious activity. This leaves a “blind spot in terms of market and consumer protection.” In contrast, competitive matches are regulated with the help of agreements for data sharing between organizers and data companies.
According to the study, one way to fight against match-fixing within friendly matches is for UEFA to enforce the regulation. Additionally, the study proposed the prohibition of selling live match data to unregulated or poorly regulated operators.
Friendly Matches Need to Be Regulated like Competitive Matches
Professor Nicos Kartakoullis, lead investigator and president of the Council at the University of Nicosia acknowledged that friendly matches can be manipulated easier than competitive matches. He outlined that a prime reason for that is the missing regulation. Kartakoullis stressed that this research reaffirms the need for friendly matches to be regulated the same way as competitive matches.
“This research shows that in terms of governance, friendly matches need to be considered just like competitive matches.”Professor Nicos Kartakoullis, lead investigator and president of the Council at the University of Nicosia
According to him, it is also vitally important that the data for friendly matches is being passed to operators who are within well-regulated jurisdictions. It is the responsibility of those operators to report any suspicious betting activities to ensure the integrity of those events, said Kartakoullis in conclusion.