xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: You want to bet?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

You want to bet?

Hello dear Font of Noelage readers.  
I have been very slack in attending to this blogsite in recent times. 
Mea Culpa, Mea culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa
You may be interested to learn that this is my 93th post since September, 2012. Hopefully I will bring up my century in the not too distant future.
Just for interest my output has been:
2012    25 posts ( in four months)
 2013   31 posts
2014    25 posts
2015    11 posts.
Which means that I averaged 2.89 posts per month up until 2015 when I only managed 11.
I have given myself a good talking to and will try to apply myself more diligently in 2016.
Over the years I have received very few comments, so I hope that this year some of you will let me know what you're thinking and maybe even suggest a topic or two.
After a feast of tennis at the Australian Open I thought it appropriate to start this year's blog with a sporting story...of sorts.

You want to bet?
The BBC and Buzzfeed news organisations have claimed that some professional tennis players are fixing their matches in order to receive payments from organised gamblers. The claims were made in January on the opening day of the 2016 Australian Open Tennis Championships in Melbourne. Tennis authorities quickly held a press conference strongly denying that gambling was affecting results in major tennis.

The BBC and Buzzfeed stuck with their stories. The next day well known players, including champions Novack Djokovic and Roger Federer, said that in years past they had been approached to throw games for large sums of money. Naturally, these players had refused to give in to the temptation of easy riches.

At the same time some betting agencies indicated that they had monitored many tennis matches over the years where the sudden flow of large amounts of money on relatively minor games had caused them to suspend betting because of a suspicion that the matches were rigged. Halfway through the Australian Open the tennis authorities held another press conference to say they were setting up an independent investigation into the question of match fixing in tennis, which three days earlier they said did not exist.

Wherever betting on sport exists there is always a risk that gamblers will attempt to fix the results in their favour. Boxing, for many years, enjoyed a sour reputation in this regard. Organised criminals saw fixing fights as a sure way to win big money from the bookies by arranging for the fancied boxer to ‘take a dive’ against a lesser opponent who was at very long odds to win. ‘Tanking’ became a popular description of boxers who regularly “took a dive” to reap huge rewards from gambling syndicates.

Horse racing is another where gambling syndicates often try to manipulate the results so as to reap a substantial betting coup. This may be done by bribing a jockey or by administering drugs that affect the horse’s performance for good or ill.

Cricket also fell foul to players fixing matches. The most notable, and surprising culprit being the former South African cricket captain, Hansie Cronje. He had a reputation as a squeaky clean, highly moral person. However, when South African cricket authorities starting making enquiries about match fixing, Cronje stunned the sporting world and confessed that he was indeed guilty. At one stage it seemed that every second cricketer in Pakistan was involved in some form of betting scam. Bookies were taking bets on such things as which ball of which over a bowler would bowl a No Ball or a Wide. Plenty of cricketers were happy to oblige until cricket authorities cracked down hard.

One famous instance of cricket betting, which did not seem to raise too much fuss for some reason or other, was during an Australia versus England test match at Leeds in 1981. Two Australian players, Denis Lillee and Rod Marsh, bet against Australia winning in the game that they were playing in at the time. At that stage of the match Australia seemed to be in an unbeatable position and the pair were wandering around the ground where they saw a betting tent with the bookies offering odds of 500 to 1 on an English victory. Denis and Rod decided, at those remarkable odds, that they would have a small wager on an English victory. They said it was just a joke. It just so happened that two England players, Sir Ian Botham (145 runs) and Bob Willis (5 wickets) performed magnificently in the last two days of the game and England, after being dismissed cheaply in their first innings and being asked to follow on, claimed a famous victory. Rod and Denis picked up seven thousand five hundred pounds from the bookies. Nobody accused them of throwing the match but they did need to do a lot of fast talking at the time.

One of the greatest sports betting scandals involved the Chicago White Sox baseball team. They had won the world series in 1917 and were odds on to win it again in 1919. They didn’t. There was a lot of suspicion about the result. Following an investigation, in June 1921, eight White Sox players were put on trial for match fixing. Prior to the trial two of the eight admitted their guilt. However, during the trial quite a lot of evidence went missing and the two players changed their plea to not guilty. The jury took less than three hours to find all of the players not guilty.

However, baseball had been plagued with stories about match fixing for some years prior to 1919 and a respected former federal judge, Keneshaw Landis, had recently taken over the reins of a much more muscular Baseball Commission. Brandis refused the reinstate the eight suspended White Sox players. Making his position crystal clear he said, “Regardless of the verdict of the juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of involved ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

I wonder if the International Tennis Association will be so strong and unequivocal if its investigation uncovers tennis players who throw games for money from gamblers?

Over the years our TV screens have been saturated with commercials from betting agencies explaining how easy it is to bet on almost anything. In football for instance, apart from betting on which team will win, you can bet on who will kick the first goal, what the margin will be at the end of each quarter and so on.

Even the regular commentators are conscripted into talking about the various betting odds on offer. It is  tediously repetitious for most viewers, who wonder how long it will be before betting commercials, like cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol, will be banished from our television screens.

Throughout the Australian Open, the television coverage was constantly interspersed with commercials about William Hill, a large betting company. As part of the advert, viewers were told that William Hill sports betting was a joint partner with Tennis Australia and the Australian Open. I wonder what the investigation into betting on tennis matches will have to say about financial arrangements between sporting associations and betting agencies?

A wise man once said if you sleep with dogs you wake up with fleas.

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