Coronavirus pandemic

Action-starved bookies target low-level match

STOCKHOLM • Two amateur Swedish clubs felt the pressure to cancel a football friendly owing to match-fixing fears, after almost 150 bookmakers offered odds on the game in the absence of live sport worldwide, local daily Sportbladet has reported.

With Sweden not under lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic, seventh-tier Eskilstuna and eighth-tier Naeshulta had arranged a practice match for Monday last week.

An explosion of interest from gamblers and bookmakers as well as attempts to control the outcome of the game quickly put a stop to that, although they eventually played - in secret - five days later.

Naeshulta forward Emil Schalin-Eriksson said: "People called from other countries and wanted to influence the result. I have never seen anything like it.

"But it's like everything else with the coronavirus; situations occur that no one could have predicted."

Hosts Naeshulta contacted Svenska Spel, Sweden's state-owned gambling monopoly, for advice and they were told that at least 148 bookmakers around the world had offered odds on the low-level friendly.

"When you're talking about 100 to 200 betting companies, we can count quite low for each company and still get up to huge sums. It's a huge, huge amount of money," Dan Korhonen, head of sportsbook integrity at Svenska, told Sportbladet.

The two clubs rescheduled the fixture for last Saturday. To prevent gamblers from finding out about it, the players were notified via a private Facebook group and no information was posted about it online.

Eskilstuna beat their hosts 6-3 in front of a handful of fans, with Schalin-Eriksson netting twice for Naeshulta.

With such huge interest from around the world in view of the shutdown in professional sport, the odds are that the two clubs may now turn the friendly into a regular occurrence.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2020, with the headline 'Action-starved bookies target low-level match'. Subscribe