24 March ~ In WSC 288 I wrote about a Serie B game between AlbinoLeffe and Piacenza on which all betting was suspended in advance. Piacenza's match at Atalanta last Saturday was similarly odd and, like that other fixture, is now the subject of an investigation.

It finished 3-0 to Atalanta, and apparently there were an unusual number of bets placed on that being the score at the end of the first half and at the end of the game. As the match footage shows, both penalties were correctly awarded but were gifts from Piacenza's defence while it almost looks as though the goalkeeper made no attempt to save either of them. And the third goal, in which the Piacenza defence goes awol, would have embarrassed a Sunday morning park team.

Without the knowledge of the strange betting patterns, one could put all this down to bad play by Piacenza. An alternative reading is that when Atalanta had failed to score in the first 34 minutes, Piacenza were forced to take matters into their own hands (literally in the case of the first penalty) to make sure that the prediction of at least three goals in the first half came true. If Atalanta had been in on it, it's likely that the goals would have been more spaced out and there wouldn't have been two penalties.

The explanation for Atalanta not adding to their score would be that they knew that Piacenza would make no effort to get back into the game, so the second half was just 45 minutes of going through the motions by both teams. Of course, any suspicions may be unfounded and it could be coincidental that the preferred result was still allowed to materialise despite the betting patterns being reported in the papers on the day of the match.

Trawling the net I see that "suspicious betting patterns" are not unknown in the UK either. But of course the evidence is always circumstantial and no action will be taken until players come out with an admission. It's yet another demonstration of the deadly peril posed by single match betting, and even more so if you can even bet on the outcome of each half. Why was it ever allowed it to be introduced? Geoff Bradford

Comments (5)
Comment by imp 2011-03-24 12:20:13

Heh, not suspicious at all - especially the third one, where the goalie watches the ball trickle across his six-yard box, and then falls comically on his arse and into his own goal before the ball's even been kicked.

Comment by delicatemoth 2011-03-24 12:45:27

I also like his "Doh!" hand to forehead after failing to save the second pen.

Comment by JM Footzee 2011-03-24 18:31:44

It does look fairly dodgy. He doesn't bother to dive for the first pen, makes a half-arsed dive in the second, and just falls over for no reason for the third.

Comment by Efficient Baxter 2011-03-25 11:14:51

I don't really see why the ability to bet on either half is any more problematic as being about to bet on the full time score, which you've always been able to do.
The UK's Gambling Commission does have a sports integrity unit which appears to be quite busy, but does a lot of its activity low-key.
These days in regulated markets it should be very easy to identify those who have bet big on 'dodgy' results. The real skill is then linking them to the willing participants within the sporting event.

Comment by drew_whitworth 2011-03-27 13:36:52

As I wrote in a letter in WSC 289, which was a reply to Geoff's article about AlbinoLeffe v Piacenza, you have not always been able to bet on the scores in single matches. In 1979-80, at least, you had to have your money on at least three games. This would make it very difficult indeed to get a fix in, whereas here it seems there is reasonable grounds for suspicion that one team can throw it even without the collusion of their opponents. I agree with Geoff that abandoning that restriction and moving to single match betting was - admittedly with some hindsight - rather foolish, but doubt very much that there is the political power or will left in football to reintroduce it.

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