Match-fixing in Swedish sports has received more and more attention in recent years. But there is still a great deal of ignorance on the subject as it remains in obscurity. Handbollskanalen contacted Jakob Uddeholt, coordinator for the work against match-fixing at the Swedish Sports Confederation (RF), to discuss the concepts and situation in both Swedish sports in general and specifically in handball.
Handbollskanalen revealed earlier this week that match-fixing is taking place to a very high degree in handball, even at the very highest level in the Champions League and European League, where our expert source confirms that there are at least three matches that have been fixed.
But the problem of match-fixing is hardly something that stays outside Sweden’s borders. There have been several high-profile cases over the years, something that has been made visible in Swedish public service television SVT Sports’ documentary ”Kvarnbyfallet” (The Kvarnby Case). But what does match-fixing really mean and how does the Swedish Sports Confederation define it? Handbollskanalen asked Jakob Uddeholt, coordinator for the work against match-fixing at RF, to explain.
“Basically, match-fixing involves the manipulation of sporting results, regardless of whether it is linked to betting or not. There is a basic definition that was established in the Council of Europe in 2014 and is about the manipulation of sports competitions. In short, it states that the manipulation must be intentional, with the aim of influencing results or scores and gaining an undue advantage. But that is not how we can go around defining it in everyday speech,” says Uddeholt.
RF has its own match-fixing regulations and this is where betting-related match-fixing is referred to, namely, manipulation linked to betting.
RF supports, coordinates and represent sports
“On the other hand, there are other parts of RF’s statutes where manipulation that is not betting is regulated. For the international sports bodies, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) code on the manipulation of sporting results is a central framework, and there it is the broad definition of the manipulation of sport, which is based on the Council of Europe. But we start from the IOC’s definition, which is the broad general definition.
“In terms of work in Sweden, it is mostly about betting-related match-fixing and it is simply because that is the biggest problem. With that said, we must not forget the second part where, for example, leaders in youth sports offer young referees money to influence matches in a certain direction. It is not at all linked to betting, but it is still a match-fixing attempt and these people are guilty of bribery. Then, of course, there are other forms of fixing with different incentives that can be sporting, financial or power-related.”
How does RF work against match-fixing?
“There are primarily two areas where the main task is to support, coordinate and represent sports. There, we primarily focus on the special sports organisations, such as the Swedish Handball Federation (SHF), to support their work against match-fixing and illegal betting. So we focus on supporting and strengthening the ability of organisations such as the SHF. Then they have the obligation to work on the investigation and education of these issues.”
“We have established a digital match-fixing training that will be provided to each organisation to reach as many people as possible. We have also developed anti-match fixing programs where the sports federations determine their work with these issues. It has already been established with seven federations while another 8-10 are underway next year, including handball.”
So the responsibility lies with the Swedish Handball Federation to train players, leaders, referees etc?
“That’s correct and of course, I assist if I have the time. I think it is easy to understand how unreasonable it would be to reach out to so many with this and to do so consistently over time. Therefore, RF’s focus has been on digitisation in the form of a comprehensive digital education, where we can reach large groups. This in turn will be an opportunity for the SHF and others to reach out to others and ensure that the training has been completed.”
”Sweden is a country that in recent years stands out”
“A similar education has existed for a long time in anti-doping, called ‘clean winners’. That is what we are striving for here. But for the SHF, just like for other federations, it is a choice they make themselves, what education to focus on and how. We provide an opportunity, it is up to the SHF to make sure it is done.”
In addition, RF has a tipping function where it is possible to tip anonymously about suspected match-fixing or illegal betting. The cases that come in are then passed on by RF to the relevant organisation.
How many of you are working on this at RF?
“It’s just me. There are many balls in the air, but that is precisely why the focus is on working to support the various organisations in their work. In short, it can be said that the work against match-fixing is 15–20 years behind the work done on anti-doping.”
The image that Sweden is a country where this type of problem does not exist has disappeared. But Uddeholt believes that most of the match-fixing is going on in football.
“Sweden is a country that in recent years stands out if we compare with other similar countries. We do not stand out in comparison with countries that have major corruption problems, but in comparison with similar countries, Sweden is mentioned as a country that has problems with match-fixing. But it is important to point out that this primarily applies to football, even though there is a lack of clear data in other sports where there is not as much work conducted.”
In other words, is handball is spared from this type of event?
“I have only worked with this for two years so I do not have statistics further beyond then but during these two years, there have been four tips about handball, two of which have come into the tips function. These could be written off after dialogue with the SHF as there were natural explanations for what was tipped. The most concrete thing in handball has been the suspicion of illegal betting, which the handball association has handled and led to an acquittal in the SHF’s disciplinary committee. It is important to also handle cases of illegal betting, as this may mean that there is also suspicion of match-fixing.”
A case involving a Swedish player was investigated
Handbollskanalen has investigated further and found out that one of the cases concerned a player in a men’s team in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second tier. In a league match, a bet came in that team A would win the match against team B. The player in question bet money that the opposing team would win the match, which then occurred.
However, since the player in question did not participate in the match, it was judged that the player could not influence the result of the match. The player was later acquitted when the disciplinary committee found the following (the names of the player and the club have been removed):
“The disciplinary committee (DN) cannot find that the player should be covered by the ban based on the above letter. This is partly through the player’s own statement, partly through follow-up of match protocols from the current league. DN does not consider that the player has been able to influence the outcome of the result or has been able to influence a part of the match. The player should not be considered part of the squad at the time of the match.”
The second case that was investigated further concerned the match with the Swedish club team that Handbollskanalen already revealed in a previous article.
As more and more focus is placed on stopping match-fixing in, among other sports, football and tennis, there is of course the risk that those who do this will change to sports such as handball.
“Absolutely. It is important to think that the risk exists. One risk has to do with the development of the gambling market linked to sports. As the market develops and offers more gambling in sports, there will also be a greater risk. And then I think both of match-fixing where those competing take the initiative but also where external forces influence and try to agree upon fixed results with those taking part.
“The second aspect of match-fixing is linked to crime and there is always a risk that the interest is moved further or expanded to more markets and more sports. Just like in other businesses, you look at where there are opportunities to make money. There have been transfers within, for example, bookmakers where results could previously be fixed via all bookmakers, but thanks to the active work by some companies’ against match-fixing, that practice has basically disappeared. You could think in the same way about sports that do not conduct active work against match-fixing – there is an opportunity for those forces to get involved,” Jakob Uddeholt concludes.
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