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Feb 15, 2013

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1.

It's actually quite hard to fix a football match, even when the referee and a goalkeeper are on board. It's still difficult but less so for spot-betting (that is, where you say a goal will be scored in the first 15 minutes after half time, or that a team will win by 2 clear goals, rather than merely team A will beat team B).

Of the several hundred matches that Europol investigated and found to have been suspect, only one was played in the UK and the result that was supposed to be delivered wasn't. In the next game, the goalkeeper concerned was under pressure to return on the investment made in him, but overdid it and was found out: he was banned from playing as a result.

The matches that are in danger of being fixed are the ones where low-paid players are involved in prestige competitions. No-one is going to try bribe a Premier League player because they're paid per week more than the average person earns in a year. It's simply not cost effective to bribe them (although I guess blackmail would work). If, however, you're in a cup competition and some team of minnows is up against a big side, well the minnows are going to lose anyway so it's easy to see how they might decide to let in goals at a particular point in the game in order to be able to feed their children... Also, referees aren't well paid and can be bribed more easily (but you would need to bribe more than just the referee - you'd probably need an assistant and the fourth official, too).

As for the general point that the game is strategically light, that's only the case if you've been brought up to think that it's only goals that make a spectator sport enjoyable for spectators.

Richard

2.

Way to go RB for defending the beautiful game.

Putting aside the US inability to understand soccer though isn't there a general problem with betting on a simulation? It is too easy for the house to manipulate the outcomes to maximise their own profit. At its crudest this could mean adjusting the win percentage depending on how much you are betting but subtler tactics could be employed like giving the punter a win after a series of losses to keep them hooked. I have certainly heard stories that electronic slot machines employ such tactics although that my be just rumour.

3.

"the US inability to understand soccer"

We understand soccer just fine. It's a fine game for children and foreigners. Like Tea - a drink for the bedridden, little girls having tea parties with their stuffed animals, and for foreigners whose delicate nature is crushed by normal coffee.

Certain stuff is for other people. Soccer, tea, and eating organ meat for breakfast is for foreigners.

4.

summary: I'm already witnessing 1,600 viewers for not-real soccer matches.

Funny coincidence to see this article now. February weekends I've been watching or listening to the footie "4chan Cup" (currently in their Winter 2013 tournament), with its marvellous sports commentators, fast action that isn't weighed down by commercials and self-important pundits... and there are no flesh-and-blood soccer players involved. It's a tournament of Konami's "Pro Evolution Soccer", broadcast as a streaming video feed with volunteers acting as team managers, all the on-field play is done by AI, and the sports commentators dialing in via Skype. There's something like 1,600 viewers for each match.

I find typical television sports coverage to be irritating or fatiguing while the non-sports content ratio keeps creeping higher. The volunteer sports commentators are focused on the match, invent just a little banter about the "players," and it's great to see people cheering their favourite teams on. The fact that the "teams" and "players" are entirely fictional is surreal. My feeling that a fictional sport's coverage by volunteers is a better quality than what I could get from wealthy journalist stables like MSNBC is, well, not sure if that says something about me or about MSNBC.

The teams, by the way, are each one of the subforums of 4chan; a match might be "Paper & Origami /po/" versus "Paranormal /x/", and the players on each team are a collection of that subforum's in-jokes. Some of the content and in-jokes of 4chan are shockingly Not Safe For Work, I cannot emphasize this enough. Spectators will cheer on their favourite teams representing their favourite subforums. Oh, the distress I witnessed when it looked like the "My Little Pony /mlp/" team might make it to the quarter-finals...

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