Suspicious signs found in 250 friendlies of European teams between 2016 and 2020

More than 250 friendly football matches involving European clubs showed signs of suspicious activity between 2016 and 2020, according to new research.

The results are from a three-year study funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ program and led by the University of Nicosia Research Foundation. The research points out that, due to the lack of regulation, the manipulation of results occurs in friendly football matches.

The survey involved 700 players in Cyprus, Greece and Malta, and found that 26.5% of the players had played a friendly that they suspected had been rigged. A total of 26.3% of attempts to combine match results were made by club officials and 15% by other players.

Club officers, in turn, were the instigators in 19% of the approaches to manipulating games and were the main beneficiaries in 26.3% of the approaches.

The study found that national and international football federations have been slow to establish where responsibility for such actions lies, especially when clubs from different countries play in a third country.

Lack of regulation in the sports betting market facilitates manipulations

This lack of regulation, coupled with the availability of such games in global betting markets, with poorly or unregulated betting operators, leaves games at greater risk for potential match-fixing.

Inappropriate and unregulated gambling operators rarely report signs of suspicious activity, which is often a licensing requirement for regulated operators.

“The combination of lack of regulation, supervision and information makes these matches easier to manipulate than competitive matches. This research shows that, in terms of governance, friendlies need to be considered as competitive games,” said principal investigator Professor Nicos Kartakoullis, chairman of the board at the University of Nicosia.

Kartakoullis continued: “With the data from 4,000 friendlies offered for betting purposes around the world each year, it is also vital that the betting companies that receive this data are operating in well regulated jurisdictions and report suspicious bets to protect the integrity of those events”.