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      Saturday
      Sep222012

      When is match-fixing not match-fixing?

      When is giving a team some money to influence the outcome of a game not match fixing?

      Well, according to Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, it is more than fair for teams to pay other clubs to win games.

      The situation he outlined was one where a club, perhaps threatened with relegation, pay another club in essence a 'win bonus' in a game they play against another who are also threatened with relegation. Thus, the first club have a better chance to stay up.

      Laudrup stressed that he is against match-fixing and that anyone caught receiving a payment in return for attempting to lose a game should be banned for life rather than for a fixed-period of time.

      The Dane outlined that his view was that match-fixing allegations should only be levelled when payments are made for teams to lose games and not win.

      Premier League and Football League rules state that accepting any money to influence the outcome of match is wrong whilst the practice of offering a monetary incentive to win important games in Spain, where Laudrup has managed, is commonplace.

      So, there are the facts, let's do some analysis.

      In a sense, Laudrup has a point as no matter how much we can hope the opposite, players are human beings and thus when the season draws to an end and there is nothing left to play for, footballers can lose interest. A little extra cash to win the game might make them try harder.

      Furthermore, it is much harder to actively try and win a football game than it is to lose one so the effect of the money is harder to quantify than it would be when a team is paid to lose.

      So, perhaps it is the effect of our friend English prudishness and a sense of fair play?

      In the same way we're largely anti-diving where many continental cultures actively praise the practice, the same reasoning could be applied here.

      We probably like to think that in all games, the players pure sense of sportsmanship will mean they go out to try their best to win every game they play, but anyone who is offered a little bit extra money is going to try that little bit harder.

      Furthermore, our sense of fair play leads us to a fear that a team who has a lot more money but is still close to relegation (let us call them QPR) could offer a lot more money as a bonus thus giving them an unfair advantage on their rivals who may not even have wanted to offer a 'win bonus' in the first place due to their ethical standpoint.

      While I can understand Laudrup's sentiment that there is a subtle difference between paying a team to win and paying a team to lose, it still feels as if it should not be allowed due to the can of worms that it opens.

      A team should be relegated if they deserve it on their basis of their play over a season, not on how much they can pay others.

      Furthermore, while there is a problem with players that play for teams that have nothing to play for towards the end of the season taking their foot off the pedal (and arguably the freedom to play without pressure effect offsets this), money is not the answer.

      Though, football has yet to find a problem it doesn't think money can fix.

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