In April 2000 it was revealed that Hansie Cronje, former South African cricket captain and Sanjay Chawla, a representative of an Indian betting syndicate were involved in match fixing during 1999 and earlier.
After an enquiry by the King Commission, Cronje was banned from any involvement in cricket for life. This scandal was one of the biggest controversies ever to have rocked the international cricket world.
Only now during January 2019, after almost two decades, a British court ordered for the extradition of Sanjeev Chawla, to India where he will finally face the music for his involvement.
But times are changing, it seems. I wonder how the matter would have been viewed today? Nowadays South Africans can do sports betting online. According to an article by Antoinette Slabbert in Rapport,
sports betting grew from R7,1Bn in 2012 to almost R40Bn in 2018.
It is the fastest growing form of betting in South Africa and proceeds received from sports betting are tax free.
It seems like the most popular sports people bet on are rugby, soccer and cricket. According to the article people can bet on as much as 80 aspects of a single match. People can bet on who will who will win the match, who will score the first goal, who will take the first wicket, how many fours and sixes will be scored, and many more.
What concerns me though is the fact that betting companies now become sponsors of sports teams.
In South Africa I know of the Lions Rugby team as well as the Cape Cobras cricket teams that are already sponsored by betting companies. Most probably there are even more.
But what does this hold for the future of sport?
# Disturbing and worrying
According to an article in The Guardian in England, experts on problem gambling have described the growing number of football clubs with betting firms and online casinos on their shirts as “disturbing” and “worrying.” Nearly 60% of the clubs in England’s top two divisions had gambling companies on their shirts during the 2018 season.
Marc Etches, the chief executive of Gamble Aware, agrees.
I think we are at a tipping point in terms of the relationship between professional sports and gambling,
“We have a generation of fans who believe you have to bet on football to enjoy it and that is disturbing and concerning. Watching football and having a bet is becoming normalised but we’re not talking about it.”
Possibility of match fixing?
Therefore what really concerns me is
whether it will be possible to keep sport free of match fixing
when gambling companies have a growing financial interest in the teams they sponsor. We must remember that sponsoring companies like to be involved with winning teams.
Will you buy a ticket to attend a match of which the outcome was already determined before kick-off? This may be the death in the pot for sport as we know it.
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