The recent spot-fixing scandal has once again brought to fore the inadequacies in Indian gambling laws. In the first of this two article series, we will examine the meaning and history of match-fixing and spot-fixing, while in the second part we will discuss the recent spot-fixing scandal and point out the deficiencies in law in dealing with match-fixing and bookmakers.
What is match-fixing and spot-fixing? Match-fixing is said to have occurred when the mach or game is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result. Players often agree to under-perform when offered monetary incentives, in most cases at the bookmakers instance-where the bookmakers stand to earn huge profits if the match is tilted in favour of one side.
Spot-fixing, a relatively new concept first popularly used after the 2010 scandal involving Pakistani cricketers was unearthed is the deliberate under-performance at pre-determined intervals of the game or specified brackets. For example- a batsman deliberately slowing down the run-rate or bowlers bowling a no-ball at the start of a certain over.
History, origin and usage of the term match-fixing:
I am now reproducing an excerpt of Nishant Gokhales article Fixing the Fixers: The Justification of Criminal Liability for Match-Fixing, published in the NUJS Law Review (2 NUJS L. Rev. 319 2009) which would be helpful in understanding the concept of match-fixing. Nishant has researched extensively on match-fixing and gambling laws. The article is available online at http://www.nujslawreview.org/articles2009vol2no2/nishant-gokhale.pdf
It was as early as 1919 in the United States of America (hereinafter USA or US), there were allegations that various members of the Chicago ‘White Sox’ agreed to ‘throw’ the 1919 Baseball World Series in exchange for money.’ The sport of boxing has been long plagued by allegations of ‘fixing’. It is widely believed that the 1965 heavyweight championship fight between Sonny Listonand Mohammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) was fixed on orders from the underworld,and that Liston purposely lost when he fell to a ‘phantom punch’. In March 1999 the fight between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis ended in a controversial draw and was allegedly fixed by Don King to ensure a lucrative re-match. This phenomenon has been observed not only in the US, but even in countries such as Japan where serious allegations of ‘rigging’ of sumo-wrestling matches have been levied, largely due to the structure of the tournaments. Such incidents of ‘fixing’ are not only restricted to national or international level sports but even in at the supranational level.
An instance of this was seen at the 2002 Olympic Games when a Russian gangster was arrested for trying to use his influence with members of the Russian and French skating federations in order to fix the outcome of the pairs and ice dancing competitions at the 2002 Olympics.’ The game of cricket also, has not been spared from this phenomenon and it was in the year 2000 that a controversy arose, which shook the very foundations of the game. This controversy was relating to the fixing of cricket matches and other related malpractices which allegedly involved links with the underworld and the illegal betting syndicates.
As can be rightly seen, although these instances are only indicative, it is quite clear that the phenomenon of fixing of matches is wide-spread irrespective of the country or the nature of the sport. Also, the common feature which can be observed in all of these instances, is the links of the allegations of match-fixing with the underworld as well as betting syndicates. To better understand this phenomenon, it would be helpful to explain what the term ‘match-fixing’ means. It is with this view that I would wish to look into the specific allegations which were made with respect to the scandal in the year 2000. There were allegations that some players or groups of players had underperformed and bets were placed on such matches and on such players. Further, it had been alleged that information was passed on to betting syndicates about team composition, pitch conditions etc. and that even the pitches were specifically prepared, by the groundsmen, so as to suit the betting syndicates. It was even alleged that bookies used the influence of national and international cricketers to gain access to foreign players and thereby expand their betting syndicates. Therefore, although instances of ‘match-fixing’ in every sport may vary from a case-to-case basis, the above stated allegations will at least help build a theoretical framework on which the paper would be able to proceed.
To most people, match-fixing in cricket cannot be said to be an entirely unexpected occurrence because, sport, being at least partially, a reflection of today’s society and therefore, there is little wonder that immorality has reached into sport as well. However, the extent to which match-fixing had pervaded the game has led even the international regulators of the game, the ICC’s officials to find it ‘most disturbing’. This is because of the fact that cricket has, for long, been seen to be a sport which is a highly suitable model of a moral sport. In fact, the legendary cricket historian and writer, Sir Neville Cardus once stated: “If everything else in this nation of ours is lost but cricket, her Constitution and the Laws of England of Lord Halsbury, it would be possible to reconstruct from the theory and practice of cricket all the eternal Englishness which has gone to the establishment of that Constitution and the laws aforesaid.”
Therefore, although one might view this conduct of the cricketers indulging in match-fixing to be unbecoming of players of the ‘gentleman’s game’, the question that would arise is whether such allegations, if true, would or should invite anything more than a mere reproach from those who hold high regard for the spirit of the game. It is, for this purpose of seeking an answer to this question, that it is necessary to develop an understanding of the concepts of ‘spoiling’ and ‘cheating’ in sports.
I would like to thank Nishant Gokhale, student of NUJS for providing continuous help and encouragement.
Note: The relevant excerpts have been reproduced with the authors permission.