Match-fixing is a form of corruption in sports that is widespread, both in terms of its international reach and the range of sports that are susceptible to it. Virtually any sport anywhere in the world can be targeted for match-fixing; most have already.
Ronald K. Noble, RKN Global’s founder, notes that because match-fixing is so widespread, it highlights what can happen in any context when there is widespread corruption: That corruption might be assumed even when it is not there, distorting the interactions in that environment. In this way, corruption—even in cases of its absence—extends its reach and undermines the areas of life that it touches.
A recent case involving suspicion of match-fixing highlights this phenomenon. Two European teams—Romania’s Astra Giurgiu and Poland’s Pogon Szczecin—faced each other in a recent exhibition match. Unlike in many match-fixing cases where outsiders suspect that players are involved in fixing matches on the field because of irregularities either in the betting markets or during play, the suspicious parties here were the players—from both teams!
On three separate occasions, the referee made calls that the players from both sides deemed questionable, awarding three penalty kicks in all. The suspicious players, believing the calls were due to match-fixing and wanting to preserve the integrity of the game, intentionally missed their penalty kicks.
Since match-fixing in this case has not been proven, consider the two possibilities: Either the referee tried to fix the match, or the referee simply made questionable calls with no corrupt motivation. If the referee did try to fix the match, did the players’ step of intentionally missing their penalty kicks really fix the problem? The game seems improperly altered no matter what: Possession of the ball might have been changed, and players’ motivation to take the game seriously and competitively might be affected, even subconsciously. If, on the other hand, there was no corruption, then the players themselves engaged in a form of match-fixing in order to undo what they perceived as the referee’s match-fixing. If the referee made the calls in good faith and the players intentionally missed them, then they were not playing their hardest and the game on the field does not represent a true sporting competition.
Either way, the suspicion by the players of the referee’s corruption leads to the undermining of the integrity of the game. Even if the referee was not corrupt.
RKN Global’s founder, Ronald Noble, argues that in a theoretical world where match-fixing was a rarity, the players would not have suspected corruption from a few bad calls. But it is precisely the common nature of match-fixing that led the players to suspect it, and which undermined the game’s integrity even if there was no actual match-fixing in this particular game.
In this way, widespread corruption can have an effect on the environment which distorts ordinary interactions even in cases where corruption is not present.