A look back at the results of the sixth and seventh file cross-checks requested by the French Federation of Handball (FFHandball) and the French National Handball League (LNH).
Both cross-checks were carried out on the same French competitions: Lidl Starligue, Proligue, Women’s League, Men’s Champions Trophy, and the Men’s League Cup.
Every time positive results were received from the Online Gambling Regulatory Authority (ARJEL), the president of FFHandball decided to initiate disciplinary proceedings before the relevant LNH commission, in order that the commission investigate the case and implement adversarial proceedings.
After the first trial proceedings, the following disciplinary decisions were announced:
Sixth cross-check, covering the first half of the 2018-19 season:
Seventh cross-check, covering the second half of the 2018-19 season:
As required by the law of 22 May 2019 on business growth and transformation, known as the “PACTE Law”, the FDJ began opening up its capital to private investors on 7 November.
The French state, which owned 72% of FDJ’s capital, is handing over a significant proportion of its shares, keeping only 20%, the remaining 52% being sold to both the “general public” and to businesses and investors.
The French National Handball League (LNH) and the French Federation of Handball (FFHandball) took the opportunity to remind everyone involved in French handball that—according to article L. 131-16 of the code of sport—those involved in sporting competitions open to betting in France were forbidden to hold shares in an authorized sports betting operator.
This ban is provided for in article 84.6 of FFHandball’s general regulations and in article 2.2.3 of the LNH’s special regulation on competition integrity.
Those involved in sporting competitions for the purposes of these regulations are defined as people belonging to any of the following categories (whether the person is employed or not):
The competition generated nearly 58 million euros in online bets over a total of 52 matches—7 times more than the previous Women’s World Cup, which took place in Canada in 2015.
15 million euros in bets were recorded on the five matches of the French team alone. Betting peaked at €4 million during the quarter final between France and the United States (which was also the competition line-up with the highest number of bets).
Here is some data taken from the quarterly report of the Online Gambling Regulatory Authority (ARJEL). The full report is available on their website.
The websites and applications of the 13 authorized sports betting operators in France have recorded 1,199 million euros in bets during the second quarter 2019. This represents an increase of 20% compared to the second quarter 2018. The disciplines that account for the majority of bets placed are:
The Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham was the club event that recorded the highest amount in bets (€8.4 million), while the average total amount bet on a Ligue 1 football match was close to one million euros.
Across all disciplines, the estimated total of licence fees paid by online betting operators to French competition organizers (federations, professional leagues, and other organizers) amounted to €2.8 million.
Out of a total of 1.7 million active online sports betting accounts, 72% belong to people who are under the age of 35, 4% belong to people over 55, and 11% belong to women.
The FFHandball et the LNH have requested a fifth file cross-check covering the second half of the 2017-18 season.
460 professional players and coaches from the Men’s 1st and 2nd leagues were checked, and the competitions concerned were Lidl Starligue, Proligue, Women’s League, Men’s Champions Trophy, and the Men’s League Cup.
Two players had positive results and were the subject of disciplinary proceedings before the relevant LNH commission. After their disciplinary hearing, the commission decisions are:
The company Vivaro Limited is the latest online sports betting operator to sign up to the general standards defined by the French Federation of Handball (FFHandball) and the French National Handball League (LNH). This allows them to offer online betting on handball, within the limits on betting types and results set by the Online Gambling Regulatory Authority (ARJEL).
The European Women’s Handball Championship, which took place in France from 30 November to 16 December 2018, generated a total of roughly €6 million euros in bets within the French market, over the 47 competition matches. This includes both online bets and those made in FDJ betting outlets.
Bets placed on the eight matches played by the French team made up approximately 45% of all money bet during the competition. The final between France and Russia clocked up €1.4 million in bets.
On 21 November 2018, the French Court of Cassation issued its verdict on the criminal proceedings instigated following the Cesson v Montpellier match held in May 2012. This ruling brings the case to a definitive close.
The court rejected the appeals of players Issam Tej, Dragan Gajic, Samuel Honrubia and Bogdan Bojinovic, as well as that of Nicolas Gillet (newsagent). All convictions for fraud were upheld, as were all sentences handed out by the Montpellier Court of Appeal on 1 February 2017 (see article from February 2017).
The court also rejected an appeal from the Montpellier Handball club (association and registered sports company) as well as the club’s request for civil action.
The verdict marks the end of over six years of criminal proceedings. The presidents of the FFHB and the LNH must now decide whether or not to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the two players still playing in France (Tej and Honrubia).
A few hours before the opening match France vs Russia in Nancy, the operators Betclic and JOA have been authorized to offer bets on the EHF Euro in France, in the compliance with the results set by the ARJEL.
There is now 11 operators authorized by both ARJEL and FFHandball for this Women's Euro.
As for the World Cup 2017 with the International Handball Federation (IHF), the European Handball Federation (EHF) has given the French Federation of Handball (FFHandball) the right, on French territory, to authorize betting on official matches of the Women's European Championship organised in France from November 9th to December 16th, both on authorized websites and in FDJ’s physical network of bookmakers.
In accordance with the framework established by the Sport Code and in agreement with the Online Gambling Regulatory Authority (ARJEL), FFHandball has sold the right to offer betting on the competition to authorized operators within the French market.
By signing the contract offered by the FFHandball, each operator concerned has the right to offer bets on any authorized result in France for Handball (list available on the ARJEL website) and, in exchange, agrees to work with FFHandball and the EHF to fight against any risk to the integrity of the competition.
As of 29th November, seven operators have been authorized to offer betting on the EHF Euro 2018 : FDJ - Bwin - PMU - Betclic - Unibet - NetBet - France-Pari - Winamax - Genybet - Zebet.
According to figures published by the ARJEL, the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia generated a total of 690 million Euros of sporting bets in the French market. Of this, 309 million Euros of bets were placed in FDJ outlets and the rest were placed via licensed online betting operators. By way of comparison, the previous World Cup in 2014 generated 290 million Euros of bets in the French market.
The 2018 World Cup final prompted 67 million Euros of bets over a few days, the highest figure ever recorded for a single football match.
ARJEL-approved betting operators and FDJ outlets together recorded approximately 12.5 million Euros of bets on the French handball competitions open to betting between October 2017 and June 2018 (Lidl Starligue and Proligue Championships, Men's League Cup, National Men's and Women's French Cups, Women's 1st League Championship and the French stage of the Men's Golden League). Of these bets, 75% involved competitions organized by the French National Handball League and 25% involved French Handball Federation matches (including the Women's 1st League).
At the end of the first part of the 2017-2018 season, the Professional Football League (LFP) requested that the ARJEL cross-check the files of professional club players and managers with the records kept by licensed betting operators. It was the eighth cross-check carried out in the sport since the 2013-2014 season.
These checks revealed that:
At its meeting on 27th June 2018, the LFP Disciplinary Committee imposed a range of sanctions, the most severe of which was a three-match ban while the least severe was a suspended €300 fine. A total of 13 players were handed temporary bans as punishment. The coaches received fines ranging from a €1000 fine to a suspended €1000 fine.
The LFP reiterated that these sanctions had been determined according to the number of offences committed and their seriousness, as well as a lack of reasonable excuse given the regularity of meetings organized to raise awareness among professional club personnel.
As previously reported, the FFHB carried out a fourth file cross-check in February 2018, in which three professional players were implicated (see article from April 2018). Following proceedings initiated immediately by the FFHB president, and hearings with the players concerned on 30th April 2018, the Disciplinary Committee sanctioned the three players for violating the ban on betting on LNH-organized competitions.
The sanctions imposed, which took into consideration the specific circumstances surrounding each offence, were as follows:
None of the players appealed the sanctions.
In tennis, professional players Federico Coria and Nicolas Kicker were sanctioned in May and June 2018. They were suspended for eight months and three years, respectively, by the Tennis Integrity Unit (the TIU is an independent body set up by the International Federation to monitor and sanction breaches of integrity in international tennis).
Coria, who was world number 300 at the time, was found guilty of failing to report to the authorities that he had been offered money in 2015 (which he refused) to lose a set at a Futures tournament. Nicolas Kicker, then world number 100, had faced a lifetime ban. He was found guilty of attempting to fix the outcome of two matches in 2015, failing to report a corrupt approach, and not cooperating with investigators. He was also fined $25,000.
The sanctions came one month after the TIU revealed in a report that tennis was facing a "tsunami" of match-fixing, primarily in the lower-level tournament circuit. The Unit also reported that former Grand Slam winners were seriously suspected of participation in match-fixing, without revealing any names.
In Badminton, two Malaysian players, one of whom is a former World Junior Champion, were sentenced in January 2018 to suspensions of 15 and 20 years and fines of $15,000 and $25,000, respectively, by the Badminton World Federation. They had placed bets on several of their own matches, the results of which they had manipulated.
The Colombian professional tennis player Robert Farah, 31 years old and ranked 16th in the world in doubles, has been sanctioned by the Tennis Integrity Unit (an independent body set up by the International Federation to monitor and sanction breaches of integrity in international tennis). Farah has been given a three-month suspension and a fine of $5000 for promoting a sports betting website on social media for several hours.
Reminder: French Law and the FFHB's General Regulations, pursuant to the law, forbid anyone involved in handball competitions that have been organized or approved by the federation from:
Sports agents, in the same way as everyone directly involved in competitions, are subject to bans on betting, due to their proximity to those involved, their potential influence and their access to inside information.
Rugby agent Matt Hart, who represents England international Mario Itoje, among others, has been suspended from working in rugby for 22 months by the RFU for having placed bets on nearly 1500 professional rugby matches, as well as for failing to cooperate with the investigation into his conduct. He will not be able to resume his activities until February 2020. Mario Itoje ended his contract with the agent when the sanction was announced.
Over the past four years, the French Handball Federation (FFHB) and the French National Handball League (LNH) have submitted four requests to cross-check files on the secure database kept by the French online gambling regulatory authority ARJEL.
This system is unique within Europe and authorized by the CNIL, France’s data protection body. Its goal is to uncover potential violations of the ban on online betting by cross-referencing:
The first cross-check, carried out in February 2015, covered:
The results, released by ARJEL on 23rd February 2015, were all negative.
The second cross-check, carried out in September 2016, covered:
The results, released by ARJEL on 9th December 2016, were all negative.
The third cross-check, carried out in February 2018, covered:
The results, released by ARJEL on 19th February 2018, were all negative, with the exception of two professional players:
The fourth cross-check, also carried out in February 2018, covered:
The results, released by ARJEL on 13th April 2018, were all negative, with the exception of three professional players:
The three players allegedly used betting accounts registered in their names to place bets on the outcome of several competition matches organized by the LNH (Lidl Starligue Championship and/or the League Cup and/or the Women’s First League), using combination bets.
The President of the FFHB promptly brought disciplinary proceedings to the LNH disciplinary committee, which summoned the players for a hearing on 30th April.
In addition, on 23rd February 2018, an online sports betting operator informed the FFHB and the LNH that on 14th February a professional Lidl Starligue player had placed bets on seven Men’s 1st League matches using a combination bet.
As a result, the Presidents of the FFHB and the LNH initiated proceedings before the LNH disciplinary committee against the player concerned, Mr. Mahamadou Keita, who plays for US Ivry Handball.
Following a hearing with the player on 26th March, the Disciplinary Committee announced its decision on 13th April. Mr. Keita was given a suspended three-month ban and a probationary period of one year.
In granting a full suspension of the ban, the Disciplinary Committee took into account the fact that the bets were subsequently cancelled with the operator by the player himself. The player did not appeal the decision.
At the end of the 2017-18 season, FFHB will request further cross-checks, encompassing a wider range of participants: professional players and coaches from the Men’s 1st and 2nd Leagues, professional players and trainers from the Women’s 1st League and referees from both professional leagues.
Following the verdict of the Montpellier Court of Appeal issued on the 1st of February 2017 (see news of february 2017), all the persons convicted to conditional sentences and fines had filed an appeal to the Court of cassation.
In the beginning of September, the FFHandball was informed that four appellants had withdrawn their appeal, including Luka and Nikola Karabatic, both players in the PSG handball team. The verdict of the Montpellier Court of Appeal has therefore become final.
The FFHandball executive board, meeting on September 15, then unanimously asked the president to open a disciplinary proceeding against the two players.
After hearing the two players and their lawyers on November 6, the 1st instance LNH disciplinary committee has considered the players’ behavior had not been in accordance with the principles and ethical rules of handball, damaging the image, the reputation and interests of French handball, and has sanctioned them to:
- Luka: 2 matches of suspension, commuted in 20 hours of community service,
- Nikola: 6 matches of suspension, including 2 dates commuted in 20 hours of community service. The suspension thus applies in national competitions from 22 November to 14 December 2017.
Neither the players nor the LNH or the Federation has appealed against these decisions, which then became final on November 21.
The European Federation (EHF), which is only competent for the champions league, was informed of the suspension imposed on the players.
Moreover, the procedure of appeal continues for the other persons (only Samuel Honrubia and Issam Tej are still FFHandball’s players for the 2017-18 season), and the Federation has mandated a lawyer to conclude the dismissal of the appeals and defend its decision to associate in a court action with the public prosecutor.
During the 2016-17 season, at the request of the FFF/LFP and the FFR/LNR, ARJEL cross-checked the files of the players and the professional clubs with the files of the authorized betting operators.
These checks revealed that:
The LNR Disciplinary Commission and By-Laws punished the 4 players concerned by handing fines of € 150 and € 500 to two of them.
The LFP Disciplinary Committee imposed suspensions and/or fines on the those who broke the rules, depending on the seriousness of the offenses committed and their experience, but also on the fact that the prohibitions set can no longer be overlooked, in light of the regular awareness-raising efforts carried out by the LFP.
On 26th April 2017, the English Football Federation gave English footballer Joey BARTON, 34, an 18-month suspension and a € 35,000 fine for having made 1260 bets between 2006 and 2016, many of which were on his own teams’ matches.
The player, who appealed this decision, issued a statement about his addiction. His club, Burnley, quickly decided to fire him before the player finally announced the end of his career.
The national platform for combating the manipulation of sports competitions was set up in January 2016 by the Secretary of State for Sports (see the news "The French Platform against the manipulation of sports competitions has mobilized for the 2017 World Cup" from December 2016).
In March 2017, this platform published its annual report:
The law of 1st March 2017 aimed at preserving sport ethics, reinforcing regulation and transparency of professional sport and improving club competitiveness, contains provisions concerning sports betting, with the objective of helping the fight against the manipulation of sports competitions.
The law includes:
NOTE: FFHandball and LNH regulations already prohibit players in handball competitions from betting on any handball competition held in France (section 84.3).
The Men's World Handball Championship, which took place from 11th to 29th January 2017, generated a total of € 17.3 million in bets in France (an increase of 48% over the last World Championship in Qatar, despite having fewer matches). € 9.6 million was bet on the sites of the 12 operators approved by ARJEL and € 7.7 million came from the 25,000 FDJ Points of sale.
Bets placed on the 9 France matches amounted to 5.2 million euros (30% of all bets on the competition). The France/Norway final generated € 1.6 million in bets.
On 1st February 2017, following an appeal lodged by 14 of the convicted, the Montpellier Court of Appeal issued its verdict on the Cesson / Montpellier sports betting case which took place during the 2011-12 season. The appellants contested being either part of or accomplices to fraud, an offense which saw the Montpellier District Court impose fines ranging from € 1,500 to € 30,000.
Conditional sentences were handed out by the Court of Appeal, which was not the case in the first instance. Mickaël Robin is the only person to have been acquitted.
Details of the penalties given:
Mladen Bojinovic - € 20,000 fine, 4 month suspended prison sentence.
Dragan Gajic – € 20,000, 2 month suspended prison sentence.
Luka Karabatic – € 10,000, 2 month suspended prison sentence.
Nikola Karabatic - € 10,000, 2 month suspended prison sentence.
Samuel Honrubia - € 15,000, 2 month suspended prison sentence.
Primoz Prost - € 10,000, 2 month suspended prison sentence.
Issam Tej – € 20,000, 2 month suspended prison sentence.
Ayoub Chah (a friend of Samuel Honrubia) - € 10,000 with reprieve.
Enzo Di Guardo (a friend of Luka Karabatic) - € 10,000.
Nicolas Gillet (Tobacconist) - € 40,000, 4 month suspended prison sentence.
Chokri M'Rassi (friend of Issam Tej) - € 15,000.
Yann Montiège (former physiotherapist for Montpellier) - € 10,000.
Giuseppe Palumbo (manager of a pizzeria) - € 10,000.
Jeny Priez and Géraldine Pillet (Karabatic brothers’ partners) - €10,000.
Several of the convicted persons have indicated their intention to appeal to the Court of Cassation.
A few hours before the opening ceremony and the first match France vs Brazil, the operators France-Pari, JOA and Zebet have been authorized to offer bets on the competition, in the compliance with the results set by the ARJEL.
There is now 12 operators authorized by both ARJEL and FFHandball for the Men's World Cup.
Moreover, Joel Delplanque (president of the FFHandball) announced at the press conference organized on February 10th at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris, that the site Hand-clean.com is now available in English and Spanish.
At the request of the LNH and the FFHandball, ARJEL had cross-checked 2015-16 players and coaches files from professional clubs with those of the betting operators approved by ARJEL.
This demand, the 2nd for handball, was aimed at the 237 players and professional coaches and consisted in verifying that they had not committed any bets on Men’s 1st and 2nd league, Women’s 1st league, neither on the Men's league cup or the Men’s champions trophy, throughout the 2015-16 season.
On 9 December 2016, ARJEL submitted the results of the request : these were found to be entirely negative.
The FFHB is now considering other files crossing, especially in Women 1st league.
The International Handball Federation (IHF) has given the French Federation of Handball (FFHB) the right, on French territory, to authorize betting on official World Cup 2017 matches, both on authorized websites and in FDJ’s physical network of bookmakers.
In accordance with the framework established by the Sport Code and in agreement with the Online Gambling Regulatory Authority (ARJEL), FFHB has sold the right to offer betting on the competition to authorized operators within the French market.
By signing the contract offered by the FFHB, each operator concerned has the right to offer bets on any authorized result in France for Handball (list available on the ARJEL website) and, in exchange, agrees to work with FFHB and the IHF to fight against any risk to the integrity of the competition.
As of 2nd December 2016, nine operators have been authorized to offer betting on the 2017 World Cup: FDJ - Bwin - PMU - Betclic - Unibet - NetBet - Winamax – Betstars - Genybet
This platform met on 30th November 2016 after being called on 28th January 2016 by Mr Thierry Braillard, Secretary of State for Sports. Led by Mr. Charles Coppolani (President of ARJEL), it brought together representatives of the CNOSF, the Ministry of Sports, the FDJ (because of its monopoly on the physical network of bookmakers) and the Central Racing and Games Service of the Federal police.
For this meeting, the Central Service for the Prevention of Corruption, Tracfin, the Budget Ministry, and of course the FFHB were also present. Similarly, the trade union of professional handball players was represented.
All partners have decided to put in place a monitoring system on the 2017 World Cup similar to that used for Euro 2016. This device will make it possible to detect any anomalies very quickly in betting or on odds as well as any warnings that can come from anyone involved in the competitions, operators or the institutions themselves.
Since 21st November 2016, the Court of Appeal of Montpellier has been reviewing the appeal of the Karabatic brothers and fourteen other people against the judgment given in 2015 (see the July 2015 news piece "The CESSON-RENNES v MONTPELLIER betting scandal"). The appellants deny committing or being complicit in fraud, as was held by the High Court in Montpellier, which sentenced the accused to fines ranging from €1,500 to €30,000. On 28th November, the Advocate General demanded fines of €40,000 from each of the Karabatic brothers and the two persons considered to be the pivotal to the case, the cafe owner and the player, Mladen Bojinovic. The Court of Appeals will most probably deliver its judgment at the beginning of 2017.
During the second part of the 2015/16 football season, for the fifth time, at the request of the Professional Football League (LFP) and the French Football Federation (FFF), ARJEL cross-checked player and coach files from professional clubs with those of the betting operators approved by ARJEL. This comparison flagged that two coaches and one professional player had disregarded the ban on betting on competitions organized by the LFP. Meeting on 9th November 2016, the Disciplinary Committee of the professional league sanctioned the player (OGC Nice) to a one match of suspension and the coaches (Angers and Troyes) with a fine of €500 each.
On 26th October, 2016, the Senate adopted a bill aimed at preserving the ethics of sport while strengthening the regulation and transparency of professional sport and improving club competitiveness. This text adopts several of the proposals formulated by the ‘Grande Conference’ on Professional Sport, established at the end of 2015 by Mr. Thierry BRAILLARD, Secretary of State for Sports. Among the provisions adopted at this stage, Article 3 extends the prohibition for players in sports competitions from betting on any competition in their discipline and not only on the competitions in which they participate. It also stipulates that the list of players concerned by the prohibitions relating to sports betting will be fixed by decree and no longer left to the discretion of the sports federations and professional leagues as is currently the case. This bill will be examined by the National Assembly on 12th January 2017.
It should be noted that the FFHB regulations already prohibit players in handball competitions from placing bets on any type of handball competition held in France (Article 84.3 of the general regulations).
Several suspicious matches have affected foreign football in recent months. In Portugal, more than ten players and managers were arrested last May on the suspicion of manipulating results in the 2nd division. In Wales, 11 people suspected of having rigged matches in the Welsh 1st division were arrested in August. In Belgium, the French players Rudy Riou and Romain Reynaud, who play for Louvain, were accused by the Belgian press of having influenced the results of 8 meetings in which they participated in the Belgian 1st division. Both players deny this. Finally, four Lao internationals have been provisionally suspended by the Asian Football Confederation for the alleged manipulation of several national team matches since 2010.
French tennis player Constant Lestienne, 24, ranked 164th in the world, served half of a 7 month suspension and was handed €8900 fine by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) for betting on 220 tennis matches between 2012 and 2015. It was ARJEL who provided information to identify which bets were made, none of which concerned matches in which the player participated.
During the second half of the 2015/2016 season, the Professional Football League (LFP) asked ARJEL to compare files to identify whether any players within the French League 1 and League 2 championships had disregarded the prohibition on betting at any time. This was the fourth such comparison of files done by French footballing bodies since the adoption of a Law on 1st February 2012 which introduced this system of control.
Following this comparison, it emerged that fifteen players and six coaches working for professional clubs had not respected the prohibition on sports betting on competitions organized by the LFP which is forbidden in both the LFP and FFF regulations.
After an investigation, the Disciplinary Committee decided, according to the seriousness of the offenses, to give more severe penalties than had been previously been seen against thirteen of the fifteen players and all six of the coaches summoned. The Committee in particular held that all of the players had already been aware of the prohibition on betting, which could not be ignored. According to the LFP, no fraud or manipulation of competition had been committed in connection with the betting.
The player most severely punished was given a five-game suspension. Three coaches were given a one-game bench suspension and a €500 fine. Before their hearing, some players issued an apology on social networks, confessed that they were fully aware of their misconduct and said that they would accept any sanctions handed out by the disciplinary committee.
According to data recently published by ARJEL, online sports betting for licensed operators in France jumped by 47% in Q1 (the first quarter) of 2016 compared to Q1 2015. Betting reached €516 million, a level never seen before!
Overall turnover for operators (bets lost) rose to €82 million (+ 30%). More than 740,000 user accounts were used at least once in Q1 2016, +27% on the same period of 2015 and +60% on 2014!
This dramatic increase is especially due to the arrival, in 2013/14, of three new licensed operators (Winamax, Unibet and Zeturf), with PokerStars also having subsequently obtained ARJEL’s approval.
Historical market leader (40% market share before competition was opened) BetClick saw its share fall to 25%.Competition between operators is highlighted by both attractive odds and a rise in return-rates (87% of stakes in Q1 2016 against 82% in 2014).
There is also no doubt that the European Championships held in France contributed heavily to this increase.
On 18th January 2016, two British media sources (BBC and BuzzFeed) jointly revealed that since 2008 over seventy professional tennis players could have been involved in numerous fixed matches, including Grand Slam events. These players, some of whom are ranked in the top 50, are suspected of being linked to betting rings in Northern Italy, Sicily and Russia and could have been persuaded to throw matches. In October, the European Sports Security Association (ESSA) announced it had found serious anomalies in 13 tennis matches between 1st July and 30th September 2015.
The ATP, WTA, International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Grand Slam Committee have ordered an independent investigation into these events. The findings should be released in early 2017.
In addition to this, two international referees were banned by the ITF for having manipulated official match scores, while four other referees are the subject of a disciplinary investigation into offenses of the same nature.
Due to the way it is played, Tennis is particularly at risk at all levels of competition when it comes to match fixing and gambling.
This uplifting testimony from Sadiou Doumbia, ranked 380th in the world, shows the reality of this phenomenon and how to identify methods used by match-fixers and risks faced by tennis players and athletes in general:
At the end of Q4 2015, the National Basketball League (LNB) asked ARJEL to compare files between 1st January and 31st October 2015 to identify whether any players from the French Pro A and Pro B championships had violated the prohibition on betting. This is the first cross-check of files conducted by French basketball’s governing bodies since a Law came into play allowing this control technique to be used on 1st February 2012.
This comparison showed that seven players and two coaches from professional clubs had not respected the prohibition on betting on competitions organized by the LNB.
After an investigation, the Disciplinary Committee handed out, according to the seriousness of the offense, sanctions ranging from warnings to a ten-game suspension against a player from the club Cholet (Pro A). Also, the coach from Cholet was given community service on raising awareness for coaches at the annual meeting organized by the LNB where young players gather at a camp as well as the professional squad and players from his club’s training centre.
A player and assistant coach from Charleville (Pro B), requested that their hearing be postponed and will be heard soon by the Disciplinary Committee of the LNB.
The LNB said in a statement that "after studying the records and interviews of players and coaches on 29th January 2016, it was clear that any bets made were not done so with the intention of changing the normal and fair outcome of a match ". Moreover, it seems that no bet was placed on a match in which any of the players participated in.
On 17th December 2015, the IOC published the Olympic Movement Code on the prevention of manipulation in sports.
The purpose of this code, which has no equivalent, is to provide the Olympic Movement and its components (NOC, International and European federations) with harmonized regulations to protect all competitions against the risk of manipulation.
This code establishes a regulatory framework that defines the different types of offenses, minimum standards on disciplinary procedures and the scope of the sanctions.
All sporting organizations who have signed the Olympic Charter will be required to respect and apply the provisions of this code. This framework does not prevent organizations from adopting more stringent regulations.
The Code will be applied for the first time during the Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August, 2016.
During Q4 of 2015, the FFF and LFP requested that ARJEL conduct a comparison of files to identify whether anyone involved in professional competitions had disregarded the prohibition on betting. This is the third such comparison carried out by the governing bodies of professional football since a law came into play allowing this control technique to be used on 1st February 2012.
It was discovered that ten players and coaches from professional clubs had not respected the prohibition on betting on competitions organized by the LFP.
On 12th November 2015, the League Disciplinary Commission started an investigation into the records of those identified. The commission handed out the following sanctions on 10th December 2015:
In late August 2015, the PMU asked ARJEL to register a new type of result on the list of authorized subjects for betting on handball. Specifically, the PMU wanted licensed operators in France to be able to offer bets on results at the end of normal time, extra time and/or after penalties.
When interviewed by ARJEL, the LNH and FFHB gave positive feedback on the addition of these types of bets; as long as they are based on the objective and quantifiable performance of participants.
ARJEL decided on 22nd October 2015 to add the following betting subjects to the list of authorized bets on handball:
The International Handball Federation (IHF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) signed, on 23rd June 2015, an agreement of cooperation to better fight against the manipulation of competitions related to sports betting. The IOC has also completed a similar agreement with the 35 other international Olympic sports federations and with national regulatory authorities on sports betting, such as ARJEL, the gambling operators (including the FDJ) and their representative associations (EGBA / ESSA).
The agreement focuses on the free implementation of an Integrity Betting Intelligence System (IBIS) for handball. IBIS is a secure and confidential computer platform, introduced in 2014, which collects and transmits to its partners information and intelligence related to sports betting. It is provided by the regulators and the operators of betting and is not a surveillance tool but a tool for the exchange of confidential information.
Handball competitions that will benefit from the agreement signed between the IOC and the IHF are:
Through this agreement, the IOC has committed to compiling and analyzing information received from various partners then forwarding this information on to the IHF. In return, the IHF accepts, like the other international federations signatories, to process the information received and in accordance with their regulations, to take the necessary measures (investigations, analysis and appropriate sanctions). The IHF also agrees to notify the IOC of the results of its analyses and of any measures taken, the IOC will then transmit this information to the partner responsible for the alert. In addition, the IHF may turn to IBIS if it suspects that one of its competitions has been manipulated.
The FFHB has access to this system via the IHF.
In November 2014, the Italian court opened a criminal investigation against two professional Italian tennis players; Potito Starce (plays singles and doubles, seeded 27th in world at ATP in 2007) and Daniele Bracciali (plays doubles, seeded 21st in world in 2012). These players are suspected of deliberately and repeatedly losing matches in exchange for large sums of money including the 2007 final of the Casablanca tournament. It came to light thanks to the wiretapping and monitoring of Skype conversations conducted during the Calcioscommesse (football match-fixing scandal) investigation.
On 6th August 2015, after disciplinary proceedings, the Italian Tennis Federation decided to ban both players and handed them fines of €40,000 (Bracciali) and €20,000 (Starace).
12th May 2012: Cesson-Rennes hosted Montpellier Handball on the 24th match-day of the French Division 1 Handball Championship. Montpellier had been guaranteed champions of France since 3rd May. Cesson-Rennes could hold their position in the league with a win. The most vital Montpellier players were either injured or being rested (Nikola and Luka Karabatic, Bojinovic, Accambray, Honrubia, etc.). Cesson-Rennes won 31-28 (score at halftime: 15-12).
16th May 2012: FDJ Alerted the “Service Central du Courses et Jeux” (Gambling authority) because €87,000 worth of bets had been placed on this match, 99% of which were against Montpellier at half time, the bets were mostly placed at FDJ points of sale and all were geographically very close together. The amount was also abnormally high for a handball match of this kind. FDJ decided to withhold any payouts on this bet.
1st August 2012: In Montpellier, a criminal investigation was opened looking into "active and passive corruption, fraud and concealment of fraud" financed by the FDJ.
30th September 2012: Directly after PSG v Montpellier at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris, the police took nine players into custody who played for Montpellier during the 2011/2012 season: Mladen Bojinović, Dragan Gajić, Wissem Hmam, Samuel Honrubia, Luka Karabatic Nikola Karabatic, Vid Kavtičnik, Primoz Prost and Michael Robin. Issam Tej was later taken into custody on 1st October. Yann Montiege, the club´s physiotherapist, was also arrested along with seven other people who bet on the halftime score including the girlfriends of Nikola and Luka Karabatic, Geraldine Pillet and Jeny Priez.
While being held, all players denied fixing the match with the exception of Nikola Karabatic, Dragan Gajic and Issam Tej, the other players admitted to betting on the match either directly or by proxy.
2nd October 2012: As a result of the arrests, judges further questioned thirteen people including the manager of a cafe in Montpellier who took seven of the highest bets placed and seven players: Mladen Bojinović, Dragan Gajic, Samuel Honrubia, Primoz Prost, Issam Tej and the Karabatic brothers and their two companions. All these people were placed under judicial supervision, which was lifted on 25th October.
The relevant count to the indictment is: "deceit by fraudulent behaviour, in this case being in possession of information in which the players of Montpelier handball team had agreed beforehand to modify or alter the normal outcome of the match between Montpellier and Cesson".
4th October 2012: the FFHB and the LNH each file a lawsuit.
5th February 2013: The LNH disciplinary commission ruled that players Mladen Bojinović, Dragan Gajic, Samuel Honrubia, Nikola and Luka Karabatic, Primoz Prost and Issam Tej had placed bets either directly or through an intermediary on the outcome of the Cesson v Montpellier match on 12th May 2012. Saying that "objective, precise and consistent evidence has convinced us" the Committee decided "to sentence each of the players concerned to a six-match suspension."
29th March 2013: After receiving appeals from seven of the players punished by the LNH, the FFHB appeals jury:
6th August 2013: Montpellier goalkeeper Mickaël Robin indicted.
17th February 2014: after the first expert report conducted by behavioural psychiatrist Pierre Sallet was cancelled in December 2013 by the Montpellier Court of Appeals, the investigating judge Marie-Christine Desplat -Didier appointed two new experts; Former international referee Nordine Lazaar and top-level sport video analyst Johan Rage. Their job was to identify any possible voluntary deficiencies made by Montpellier players during the match concerned.
A few months later, they pronounced that their "personal conviction is that with such a high number of abnormalities and with such a difference in commitment and speed during the game especially between the first and second halves of the match is just too curious to be innocent and cyclical."
6th February 2015: The investigation finished. Montpellier prosecutors referred the case to the court for fraudulent acts to the detriment of the FDJ for sixteen of the seventeen accused, including Nikola and Luka Karabatic, Samuel Honrubia, Mladen Bojinovic, Primoz Prost, Mickael Robin, Dragan Gajic, Issem Tej and Geraldine Pillet. The girlfriend Luka Karabatic, Jeny Priez, is herself referred for "complicity in fraud" while former girlfriend of Mickaël Robin has her case dismissed.
1st April 2015: The investigating magistrates in charge of the case send these sixteen people back to court.
15th June 2015: The trial opens in Montpellier Criminal Court, and held there until 26th June.
10th July 2015: the Criminal Court of Montpellier holds that the defendants are guilty of fraud or complicity in fraud and hands out the following penalties:
They are ordered to compensate the FDJ for damages to the amount of around €200,000:
Moreover, following the findings of the prosecution the FFHB and the LNH ordered every player to pay them €1 in compensation for damage suffered.
The majority of those found guilty immediately let it be known that they would appeal the ruling.
Calcioscommese, which translates as “betting on football” is the name given by the Italian press when talking about a massive match-fixing scandal which has rocked Italy´s professional football leagues over the last decade.
Since 2010, investigators have been collecting and updating evidence on match-fixing connected to sports betting on dozens of matches in Serie B and LegaPro as well as a handful of matches within Serie A.
Over 100 people have been arrested or interrogated since the start of the enquiry including club executives, agents, members of the mafia and numerous professional players and coaches. Guiseppe Signori, a former Italy international, who is suspected of belonging to the Bologne Maffia, is also involved in the case.
The Italy team which participated in Euro 2012 as well as the current national team and former Juventus coach, Antonio Conte are suspected of having fixed matches.
They have already been sanctioned by the Italian disciplinary sporting bodies. Some, like Antonio Conte, Stefano Mauri, Cristiano Doni and Giuseppe Signori were dismissed, along with 130 other people in February 2015 by the Prosecutor of Cremona for fraud and criminal associations. The trial will be held during the 2015/2016 season.
The investigation revealed that a mafia group from Singapore, lead by Dan Tan, was at the heart of this case. The scam went as follows: several players and sometimes the coach were bribed to influence the outcome of a match, while criminal networks bet heavily on Asian betting sites.
The investigators reported that the "price" of corruption was on average: €400.000 per Serie A match, €120,000 per Serie B match and €60,000 per LegaPro match. A Serie A match between Lecce and Lazio Rome would typically cost around €600,000 in order to bribe players and coaches. Mafia networks would have earned around €2 million. More news to follow...
ARJEL have published their online betting market analysis for Q1 2015.
During this period, online bets placed with licensed operators have risen to €351 million. This is a 38% increase compared this time last year. So, after a below par showing in Q3 2014 it seems that online betting is seeing sustained growth.
This growth continues to be carried by football and tennis with theses sports respectively being responsible for 58% and 18% of total bets placed. However, the variety of the sports betting sector is not limited to these sports with both handball (+87%) and basketball (+42%) both seeing a significant rise in bets placed. €7.1 million was bet on handball matches with 5.5 million being placed on the World cup alone.
The amount of royalties paid out to competition organizers by online betting operators for this quarter came to €742,000. This “betting right” comes from all bets placed on competitions taking place in France.
During a press conference held in June 2015 at the European Parliament, MEP Marc Tarabella declared that “there is a very strong suspicion about more than 50 matches played during the 2014/2015 season”. Matches from different levels of competition in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Latvia, Romania, Slovenia, Cyprus and Ukraine as well as certain Europa League matches are suspected of having been fixed for fraudulent gains related to sports betting. With two low-stake games in particular being singled out after receiving over €50 million in bets.
The MEP added that "Europol had detected 680 fixed matches between 2008 and 2011. The 2013/14 season was marred by an additional 460 cases. Corruption has migrated from high-level competition to secondary or lower division championships".
FDJ are going to contribute to the monitoring of sports betting for major sporting events.
In January 2015, FDJ signed an agreement with the IOC for the monitoring of sports betting. FDJ will join the monitoring system called Integrity Betting Intelligence System (IBIS) and will help national regulatory authorities and international sports organizations to collect data and receive alerts on possible manipulations related to sports betting during the Olympic Games and other major sporting events.
In April 2015, three players from Norway’s 3rd division were condemned to 6-8 months in prison by a court in Oslo for having thrown matches on at least two occasions in 2012 in exchange for payment. It was these players’ own club which alerted the authorities after a suspicious 4-3 defeat after, at one point, being 3-0 up. Wiretaps showed that these players had made a deal with Swedish gamblers.
On 9th July 2014, the Council of Europe adopted a convention on the manipulation of sports events.
This text is open for signature by all States including non-members of the Council of Europe, and its main objective is to build a coordinated international response to a global phenomenon. At the Conference of Ministers responsible for Sports, held in Switzerland on 18th September 2014, fifteen states (including Germany, Greece, Denmark and Russia) signed the convention, which will come into force once ratified by five of the signatories. France signed on 2nd October 2014 in Strasbourg.
The Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) filed a complaint against the club Willem II for fixing 1st division matches in 2014. On the 17th February 2015, following this complaint, five people were arrested by Dutch authorities on the suspicion of belonging to a criminal organization specialized in illegal betting.
Since 2012 and more recently in January 2015, Czech police have arrested and charged 25 current and former football players suspected of match-fixing. Suspicions focus on the "possible manipulation of matches within different levels of competition related to sports betting" said the spokesman of the police anti-corruption division. Two clubs from the Czech 1st division, FK Teplice and FK Jablonec, along with a 3rd division club are also suspected of having played a part in these manipulations.
David Howmann, General Director of the World Anti-Doping Agency declared in December 2014 that "25% of all world sport is plagued with crime of some sort". He also stated that those who provide doping products to athletes are also those who corrupt and organise match-fixing.
In September 2014, professional footballer Olivier Kapo, former player of AJ Auxerre, revealed in So Foot magazine that he had been subject to multiple corruption attempts during the 2013/2014 season. He was approached to help fix a match played by his then club, FC Leviadakos. After rejecting these attempts, the player then received several death-threats from several people as well as managers from within his own club.
In June 2014, the Professional Football League (LFP) initiated disciplinary proceedings against more than 80 professional players playing in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, who according to results provided by ARJEL's computer matching system, ignored the regulatory prohibition of betting on competitions organized by the LFP.
The LFP conducted an investigation that found evidence of betting but none of match-fixing. Sanctions were handed out on 24th July 2014.
In the end, 77 players were summoned. The Disciplinary Committee classified offenses into 4 categories depending on the amount, quantity and type of bets made. Thus, players who placed less than 10 bets for sums not exceeding €100 received a warning and reminder of the regulations. Those who bet a total less than €500 on around 10 bets were reprimanded. Players whose bets amounted to over €500 were punished with fines ranging from €500 to €1500. Finally, the 17 players who committed negative bets against their own clubs (draw, defeat or no goals scored) were given suspensions, a fine and were made to do community service.
On 21st November 2014, following an investigation by the 'Service central des courses et jeux' (Unit of the Judicial police which regulates gambling), six people were investigated for "corruption and bribery in connection with sporting events" for alleged match-fixing in Ligue 2 during the 2013/2014 season, notably the Caen v Nîmes match on 13th May 2014.
The presidents of each club, Jean-Marc Conrad (Olympique Nîmes) and Jean-François Fortin (SM Caen) as well as Serge Kasparian the majority shareholder of Nimes were all involved.
The Professional Football League (LFP) and the French Football Federation (FFF) filed a civil law suit and initiated disciplinary proceedings against certain players and against Nimes.
On 17th March 2015, the LFP disciplinary committee pronounced several disciplinary actions including:
On 7th May 2015 after appeal, the FFF appeal board decided to change certain sanctions, primarily to allow Olympique Nîmes to stay in Ligue 2 for 2015/16 instead deducting 8 points at the start of the following season. The club announced its intention to join the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF).
It should be stated that the aim of these infractions was to keep the club up in their division and as yet, no link with sports betting has been established.