The recent player payoff scandal in the Canadian Soccer League (CSL) makes many realize that smaller leagues are very vulnerable to player payoffs and are consequently throwing games on purpose.
Match-fixers in Europe targeted the CSL because it’s a lower profile league and the players don’t get paid very much to play. At least one game was fixed, and although it occurred over three years ago, the scandal was only recently discovered.
A group of match fixers who were previously convicted for fixing matches in Europe saw an easy target in the relatively unknown CSL. It almost went as far as the ring of match-fixers purchasing a CSL team, but those plans fell through.
Gambling and sports will always go hand in hand. Whether it’s a case of beer on the line, or a substantial sum of money, betting is a part of sports. It can be a lot of fun and make the games more interesting, especially when the bet is between friends.
But, there is a line that has to be drawn. Paying off players to fix a match, otherwise known as point shaving, can occur in any league at any time. It’s less likely to see it in a league where players make millions a year than it is in a league where players basically live paycheque to paycheque.
Could it happen in college sports? Probably. Could it happen here at SAIT? Probably not.
Ken Babey, SAIT Athletics Director and head coach of the men’s hockey team believes that SAIT is safe from such a scandal.
“Players have the opportunity, right or wrong, to make money if they throw a game,” said Babey. “I don’t think that occurs in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).
Babey was confident that Trojans wouldn’t be likely to fall into the trap, but that players are essentially responsible for their actions.
“We have codes of conduct in place for coaches and players, but nothing to actually prevent it from happening,” said Babey. “It’s up to the players to make the right choice.”
An athlete who wishes to remain anonymous said they could entertain the idea of being paid off to fix a match.
“Well, I don’t think I could ever actually do it, but if the price was right I would definitely consider it. Student loans aren’t going to pay themselves off. Fortunately, I don’t think anyone will ever target SAIT to fix a game.”
Realistically, the only thing stopping a player from accepting a payoff and throwing a game is their own integrity. Each year, roughly $2.5 billion worth of illegal bets are placed in the United States alone.
Major leagues such as the NHL, MLB, NBA, and NFL have policies in place to prevent match-fixing. Although the ACAC has nothing in place, many college-level associations do. In the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), players are restricted from betting on any sport whatsoever.
The CSL certainly isn’t the first league to experience a betting scandal. In 1989, the Major League Baseball commissioner questioned star Pete Rose about allegations he bet on Cincinnati Reds (the team he managed) in 1987.
It was revealed that Rose bet on 52 Reds games with a wager of around $10,000 per game. Rose would likely be in the Hall of Fame, but due to the scandal, he is ineligible to be inducted.
In 1951, a number of college basketball players from CCNY, Manhattan College, Long Island University and New York University were indicted for point-shaving, and again in 1994, this time with basketball players from Arizona State.
In 2009, six University of Toledo athletes (three football, three basketball players) were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit sports bribery.
In April of 2011, 10 individuals with ties to University of San Diego and University of California athletes were indicted on charges of running a point-shaving scheme.
With this many occurrences over the past 50-plus year span, it’s obvious that college sports are indeed a target of match-fixing. That being said, there has yet to be a scandal among Canadian college athletics.
While many were made an example of, betting scandals continue to occur in sports. But, it’s not an overly common trend. Either that or many of the people involved are much better than others at not getting caught.
It’s very hard to police this issue, as it’s pretty much an honor system. Just as people will continue to bet on sports, certain people will never cease to try and give themselves a competitive advantage.
As for SAIT and the rest of the ACAC, it is apparent that the integrity of sport will always come before taking an easy payoff.