Each new match fixing scandal brings renewed attention to the issue and possible solutions to deter the activity which destroys the integrity of the game and overall enjoyment by fans. Essentially, match fixing is fraud and as such, it should be punished. However, the solutions that have been traditionally employed don’t seem to be working to stop or even reduce the problem. The recent IPL scandal is just the latest in many which have built a reputation in the league that has at best, made fans cautiously suspicious and at worst, driven others away in disgust. For those who remain, they enjoy the excitement of the games and the positive aspects of the competition, but either turn a blind eye to the corruption, willfully denying that it truly exists, or frustration grows, eventually turning them away from the league entirely.
However, the level of corruption that seems to exist doesn’t have to remain this way. There are ways in which these match fixing scandals, at the very least, can be kept to an absolute minimum. The first of the two proposals is strikingly obvious. The second is often found to be counter intuitive, but we will do our best in making our case.
Enforce the Rules
The first step in properly addressing the issue is to take it seriously by enforcing existing rules. A shocking revelation in the Rajasthan Royals scandal is that this is the first IPL scandal which has resulted in the arrest of players involved. Until now, it was understood that participating players would only be dealt with by disciplinary actions from the BCCI, but these actions are often very insignificant and do very little to deter would be conspirators on the field. Essentially, there is a lot of upside in participating in these scandals with very little risk, save for some humiliation and shame.
The players that are suspected to be involved in the latest scandal are being charged under Section 420 and 120B of Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 420 addresses cheating and 120B addresses criminal conspiracy. It is anybody’s guess why it has taken so long for such disciplinary actions have been taken against involved players, but it is a good first step. Not only to give credibility that the authorities seem intent on taking match fixing more seriously, but also advertising to the cricket community that such actions will not be tolerated.
Re-Thinking Old Rules
Legalizing and regulating sports betting is another necessary step. The second step in our proposal isn’t as obvious, but it has proven to be effective in other parts of the world. It has also been recently considered by the union sports ministry. Keep in mind, the legalization of sports betting does not in any way endorse the activity. It simply means that government will allow society to decide on the moral question, but they will simply enforce laws against force, fraud, and abuse. What legalization and regulation will do is bring the world of sports betting into a legal atmosphere that is easier to control. For instance, in current cases of scandals, it is very difficult to investigate due to the fact that finding skewed betting patterns is difficult. No bookie will step forward and present their books to authorities, however, in a legal environment; they will be able to help without incriminating themselves. Looking at betting patterns is extremely effective in finding fraud. Legalizing sports betting will allow regulated bookmakers and authorities to work together to find irregularities and ultimately punish match fixing.
This step will also greatly reduce underground bookies, as the recreational bettor would rather deal with a reputable company than with a back alley character. If a bookmaker acts inappropriately, the bettor would be able to bring the matter to authorities; once again, without incriminating themselves as their own actions would no longer be illegal. These incentives would greatly damage the power and influence of underground betting rings.
A good model for legalized betting can be found in the UK which has resulted in a safe environment for bettors, as well as much less corruption in match fixing.