Betting on friendly matches worries football officials

Football administrators are helpless when overseas betting companies offer clients the opportunity to bet on friendly pre-season matches between lowly teams.

The fear is that these legal bets could encourage match-fixing in low profile games, which could easily slip through the scrutiny of administrators.

But for Malta Football Association integrity officer Franz Tabone there is very little anybody can do to change the situation – despite the irrationality of betting on pre-season friendly games.

He insists that this is not a phenomenon limited to Malta, as betting sites are offering the gaming public an array of friendly football matches from all over the world to bet on.

“Betting companies make no distinction between a Champions League match and an amateur friendly, because for them both are ultimately an opportunity to make money,” Mr Tabone said, adding this was an annual occurrence.

Mr Tabone said that in the past, he had raised concern with a particular football club, whose foreign investors were very keen on a past summer tournament.

He even suggested to football clubs organising summer tournaments to change the format of the games – for example, having three 30-minute halves or three 45-minute games.

“However, even if the format is changed, the betting companies could still offer stakes on the final result. At the end of the day, what it boils down to is the integrity of the players on the pitch,” Mr Tabone said.

The issue was flagged last Monday on Replay, a football programme on Radio 101, when the friendly match between Gżira and St Andrews in the Summer Cup tournament organised by the latter was made available for betting on some sites.

During the radio programme, St Andrews FC secretary Chris Vassallo said he did not agree with betting options on friendly games but the club could do nothing to stop gaming companies from offering bets on its own tournaments.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Malta FA secretary general Angelo Chetcuti, who insisted the association had absolutely no control over the choice of games offered by betting companies.

“It bothers me that betting companies offer bets on friendly games as much as it bothers me when they also offer bets on youth games, but there is little we can do,” Dr Chetcuti said, adding this did not imply that every pre-season friendly match should be viewed with suspicion.


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