Skip to main content

How English football cashed in on the rise of betting

By The Secret Footballer, CNN
November 21, 2012 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
The Secret Footballer says in the early days of in-play betting players used to make money by manipulating elements of the match such as who would win the first throw in. The Secret Footballer says in the early days of in-play betting players used to make money by manipulating elements of the match such as who would win the first throw in.
HIDE CAPTION
In-play betting
Lundekvam speaks out
Bohinen's concern
Adams' addiction
<<
<
1
2
3
4
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Secret Footballer reveals players made money using in-play betting
  • Players could make money by manipulating who would take the first throw in
  • Bookmakers now go to extreme lengths to prevent spot fixing in sport

Editor's note: "The Secret Footballer" is a current player who has chosen to write about his life in the English game. His book "I Am The Secret Footballer: Lifting The Lid On The Beautiful Game" is published by Guardian Books. Read more about him at www.thesecretfootballer.com. In the second of a two-part piece on gambling and match-fixing, he reveals how some players cashed in on the rise of in-play betting.

(CNN) -- When I first started playing, I was simply too young and too naive to realize what was going on. I just thought that the full back who was clipping the ball down the line and out of play was s*** and there was no helping him. It was only years later that I found out what had been going on.

"In play" betting was a relatively new thing in those days. The internet was just taking off and the algorithms used to detect fraudulent gambling were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are now. Let me give you an indication of just how easy it was to manipulate the system back then ...

Read: Football's addiction to gambling

Let's say that you are the captain of the team. At the start of every game, you are involved in the toss of a coin to determine which team has the kick off and which end you are going to kick towards. No team wants to win the toss so that they can have the kick off; an away team only wants to win the toss so that they can choose which end to kick towards -- so the home team does not have the advantage of kicking towards their home fans in the second half.

English football and some of it's most high-profile stars have long battled gambling addiction. The combination of a bloated bank account and boredom can set some players on the road to ruin. English football and some of it's most high-profile stars have long battled gambling addiction. The combination of a bloated bank account and boredom can set some players on the road to ruin.
Gambling in football
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
Footballers\' gambling addiction Footballers' gambling addiction
The Secret Footballer
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
Sport\'s battle against depression Sport's battle against depression

So, we know no team is interested in winning the toss to get the kick off. Now, imagine what would happen if, as the captain, you went in to each of these tosses with the sole intention of making sure that your team got the kick off. You could, in theory, kick-off every time and, if that happens, it becomes ridiculously easy to bet on which team will win the first throw in.

I want to go on record as saying I had nothing to do with this.

As I say, I was a young man who could barely find my way to the training ground. I also had aspirations of playing at the very highest level so anything that seemed even remotely "iffy" just wasn't for me.

Even so, regularly kick-offs that started a game led to the ball being played to a full-back who in turn would shank it out of play. I have no idea how much money was made but it would probably have been the equivalent to a player's full weekly wage.

Read: Down the rabbit hole - depression in the EPL

It didn't take the bookies long to catch on and, these days, the levels of detection are as scary as they are effective. In the research I did for this article, I consulted a friend of mine who works for a leading online betting site to see what measures have been put in place since the early days of internet gambling.

You could, in theory, kick-off every time and, if that happens, it becomes ridiculously easy to bet on which team will win the first throw in
The Secret Footballer

It turns out that they do not have anything specific to track irregular betting patterns but, instead, rely on a combination of tools that help their "operator traders" decide whether a bet is fraudulent or not.

The main tool is recognizing the repeat customers and their betting patterns.

There are reports that show the customers who repeatedly bet on the same outcome -- win, lose, draw, etc. These customers are then pooled together into "liability groups" that are monitored closely so that any betting pattern that changes is immediately flagged up on the system.

The operator traders monitor such behavior through "live alerts" that are set up to detect irregular bets in real time.

The traders look for sudden upshifts in betting and on particular selections.

A tell-tale sign that a bet may have sinister undertones is when a user places the maximum amount allowed in one bet. Again, this is all exposed through real-time alerts and reports.

Read: The Secret Footballer reveals life inside the EPL

Real Oviedo fans show their support for the club in the Estadio Carlos Tartiere with a banner reading "For the future of Real Oviedo" before a game with Real Madrid's reserve team on November 11, 2012. Real Oviedo fans show their support for the club in the Estadio Carlos Tartiere with a banner reading "For the future of Real Oviedo" before a game with Real Madrid's reserve team on November 11, 2012.
Real Oviedo: A Twitter sensation
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
Real Oviedo\'s fight for survival Real Oviedo's fight for survival
Barcelona's Lionel Messi (left) and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) -- widely considered the two best players in the world -- shake hands before the 'El Classico' derby between Spain's two biggest clubs. But is the huge wealth of Barca and Real damaging the rest of Spanish football? Barcelona's Lionel Messi (left) and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) -- widely considered the two best players in the world -- shake hands before the 'El Classico' derby between Spain's two biggest clubs. But is the huge wealth of Barca and Real damaging the rest of Spanish football?
Spanish duopoly
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
Spanish football hit by sponsorship cutbacks Spanish football hit by sponsorship cutbacks

Interestingly, almost every online bookmaker is extending the capabilities of these reports and alerts in order to make their software and, by extension their operators, more "clever".

But it is not because they are falling victim to increasing numbers of betting rings and scams, it is because their users are mushrooming at an alarming rate.

Gambling has been big business since Moses wore short trousers and, in these times of austerity and economic hardship, it is no great surprise that many people are once again turning to the vices that give them a modicum of pleasure at the minimum of cost.

Yet, as with all vices, there will be those who are unable to recognize and control the pitfalls.

There is a gambler in all of us, like it or not.

Very often, the biggest gamble in life comes in the working environment -- deciding when to stick and when to twist, when to realise that our own contentedness is determined not by the material things that we surround ourselves with but by the things that money can't buy, such as family.

Sometimes, however, like me, the wood is very much masked by the trees and what seems like the right career move ends up having terrible consequences for the people that you love the most.

My biggest gamble was to move my family hundreds of miles from their support network and, with hardly any warning, plunge them into a totally alien environment.

The impact that decision had on us as a family was immediate and only resolved itself a few years later after a gargantuan effort on our part to get things back to the way they had once been.

I gambled all the good things that I had in my life for a little bit more of the things that I had always been taught to strive for but which, in reality, mattered least of all. There is no prize on earth that would have ever made that gamble worthwhile, especially in football.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Football Club
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
The 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy, which claimed 96 lives, brought the red and the blue halves of Liverpool together.
CNN's Don Riddell says the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy has caused irreparable damage to the families of the 96 victims and the survivors.
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
The Champions league trophy stands on show during the draw for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions league at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on March 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Two European heavyweights will collide in the Champions League semifinals after Bayern Munich and Real Madrid were drawn together in Switzerland.
March 24, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka looks on during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, central England, on January 1, 2014.
England prides itself on being the home of football, but is the nation dysfunctional in dealing with racist abuse?
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1339 GMT (2139 HKT)
In a city where football is a religion, Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge is fast becoming a deity.
French former football player Zinedine Zidane reacts during the gala football 'Match Against Poverty' organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on March 4, 2014 in Bern.
Some of the biggest names in football lined up for a charity match, but CNN's Tom McGowan wonders if they can help beat poverty.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
"Everyone is scared about war -- they are very nervous," former Ukraine football star Oleg Luzhny says of the rising tensions with Russia.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1807 GMT (0207 HKT)
Bayern Munich's present success rests on one key decision, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge tells CNN.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
Neymar
"More than a Club." It is an image Barcelona has carefully cultivated, but could the controversial deal to sign Neymar sour that view?
February 1, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Affectionately known as "the wise man of Hortaleza," Luis Aragones -- who died aged 75 -- left the legacy of helping Spain's ascension to the top.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 2118 GMT (0518 HKT)
Real Madrid hasn't won the European Champions League in over a decade, but the Spanish club is invincible in one field -- making money.
The naming of the world's best footballer is not all that it seems, says CNN's James Masters.
ADVERTISEMENT