That football is the favourite game of punters is a very well-known fact, but even the biggest fan of the sport will be shocked to find out exactly how popular it is. According to the International Centre for Sport Security, a sports integrity watchdog based in Qatar, each and every match of the English Premier League is able to attract more than €1 billion in wagers placed from different parts of the world. What is even more shocking is that almost 80% of this money is placed through illegal channels.

What this means is that the people walking across the street to their favourite bookie or placing bets through one of the many legitimate online bookmakers are only a tiny minority of sports bettors. The vast majority of punters come from places where sports betting is not legal, but they don’t let that fact get in the way of their desire to place wagers and try to win big!

Chris Eaton, senior executive of the ICSS, and formerly the head of security at FIFA, provided more details about the bets placed on EPL matches. For one, the wagers were placed on the outcomes of the match, irrespective of the teams facing each other. Most of the bets were on scores at half-time and then again at full-time. However, he did not mention whether the high volumes of betting played any role in determining the results of the matches.

The data about illegal football betting worldwide was provided unofficially when Eaton was at an event conducted by UNESCO and ICSS in Doha, Qatar to discuss steps being taken to address the problem of corruption in sport. The event was spread over two days and was attended by around 60 people from different countries.

There is without doubt a great deal of concern about the impact of sports betting on the quality of the game. People inevitably lose their faith in individual players or teams if allegations of match fixing surface against them time after time. In fact, Eaton went so far as to state that the very future of organised sports was bleak because of the menace of match fixing. He therefore, called upon governments to take immediate steps to control this problem before it got entirely out of hand and sports lost its credibility completely.

Football match-fixing tends to occur most often during international friendlies and again during dead rubbers in qualifying games. Interestingly, competitions involving junior and also lower league teams were prone to match fixing.

According to Eaton, the global business in illegal sports betting had crossed €1.3 trillion and it focused mainly on football. Cricket and tennis were also popular games with punters. The bulk of the illegal betting business was managed by Eastern European and Asian organised crime gangs. What is even more shocking is that the figure of €1.3 trillion might be a conservative estimate since other experts in the field have stated that it could be more than double that amount.

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