A World Cup year should be a celebration of elite sport.
The quadrennial tournament comes round but once every four years, however controversy over the selection of Qatar as hosts has been one of a myriad of complaints against the 2022 edition.
Before a ball had even been kicked, allegations were doing the rounds that shady Qatari officials had attempted to bribe eight Ecuador players to fix the first game of the tournament against the host nation.
Given how quickly the story was buried after appearing in international news columns, the assumption is that there was no truth to the claims whatsoever. But, given what else has come to pass this year as far as betting scandals and match fixing allegations are concerned, it really wouldn’t have surprised you.
World Cup Woe
Given his goalscoring exploits so far in the 2022/23 season, Ivan Toney would have expected to be on the plane to Qatar to represent England.
But a betting scandal, which was revealed just days before Gareth Southgate was set to announce his England squad, ultimately put paid to those hopes.
The 26-year-old was subsequently charged with 232 breaches of the betting rules governing the activities of players, which were accumulated over a four-year period between February 2017 and January 2021.
It’s a staggering number of offences for any professional sportsman to commit, but a footballer at the peak of their career and on the brink of a World Cup call-up? The mind boggles….
Although the nature of Toney’s breaches aren’t known, the allegations made against Scottish players Leigh Griffiths and Paul McGowan require little in the way of explanation.
They were helping police with their inquiries earlier this month over allegations that they had conspired to both get booked in a game between Dundee and Hearts in December 2021.
According to reports, as many as eleven police officers swooped on Griffiths’ home to summon him to the station, and the raid is said to have lasted for more than two hours as three uniformed officials and eight CID detectives hunted for evidence.
Both Griffiths and McGowan were shown yellow cards within minutes of one another at the start of the second half in the game in question.
Winter to Forget
While Griffiths and McGowan have dragged Scottish football through the mud in the latter part of 2022, at the start of the year it was fourteen – yes, you read that correctly – players and managers that were hauled up in front of a disciplinary panel.
The group, which included Morton manager Dougie Imrie and Cove Rangers assistant boss Gordon Young, combined for 60 different breaches of the Scottish FA’s rules on betting.
They are all thought to have infringed Disciplinary Rule 31, which states that: ‘No club, official, team official or other member of team staff, player, match official or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall gamble in any way on a football match.’
Some of the investigations have still not been wrapped up yet, although Imrie was served with a ten-game ban for his breaches.
The 2022 hall of shame has not been staffed solely by footballers.
Snooker has had its fair share of match fixing scandals too in what has become of the darkest years for the sport.
Liang Wenbo, a former UK Championship finalist, was banned from competing in any form of snooker back in October while an investigation into ‘misconduct’ is carried out.
The actual nature of the allegations against the Chinaman are not known, although several media outlets are reporting that alleged betting or match fixing is at the heart of the matter.
And today, believe it or not, five more Chinese snooker players have been accused of spot fixing.
Lu Ning, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Chang Bingyu will be suspended from the World Snooker Tour while they are investigated into ‘allegations of manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes.’
“This follows the suspension of Liang Wenbo on 27 October 2022, and a subsequent investigation, which remains ongoing into allegations of manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes in breach of the WPBSA Conduct Regulations.”
None of the quintet are household names in the sport, although Lu Ning is knocking on the door of the world’s top 40.
And the fact they are of the same nationality and at a similar juncture in their career, would suggest that something coordinated has – allegedly – been going on.
It’s been a year to forget for many reasons, and top level sport’s increasing exposure to match fixing and betting breaches is just one of them.