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spot fixing also spot-fixing

noun [uncountable]

in sport, the dishonest activity of arranging a specific part of a game so that the result is what someone wants

spot-fix

verb [intransitive/transitive]

spot-fixer

noun [countable]

'The Football Association is among a number of governing bodies considering strengthening their anti-corruption measures in the wake of the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing allegations.'

Telegraph 15th September 2010

'… these include Test-captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif after they allegedly spot-fixed the Lord's Test against England – a match the tourists lost by a record margin.'

bettor.com (blog) 7th September 2010

'A police case against Pakistan's alleged spot-fixers may falter amid the vagaries of the courts, according to a legal expert with experience in other sport cases.'

Sydney Morning Herald 2nd September 2010

"Spot fixing is a disease that will kill cricket" wrote veteran England cricketer Ian Botham on 20th September 2010. That quintessentially English game, once the preserve of floppy white hats, cucumber sandwiches and gentle sportsmanship in picturesque countryside locations, has recently been smeared in allegations of deception and corruption …

ironically, the phrase it's just not cricket is an old-fashioned British English expression used to describe situations which are unfair or socially unacceptable

Ironically, the phrase it's just not cricket is an old-fashioned British English expression used to describe situations which are unfair or socially unacceptable, the premise being that the game of cricket epitomizes the concepts of fairness and social decorum. Check out the Macmillan Dictionary thesaurus entry for not cricket, and you'll find synonyms like unfair, unjust, biased, wrongful. How bizarre then, that cricket should currently be at the centre of a scandal which is precisely about being 'unfair'.

Spot fixing is the practice of fixing a specific event within a sports match. It usually involves a player agreeing, prior to the game, that they will perform in a particular way. In cricket this might involve a batsman agreeing to only get a certain number of runs, or a bowler bowling a consecutive number of wide balls in a particular over, etc. Spot fixing stands in contrast to the expression match fixing, which refers to the practice of fixing the result of an entire match rather than the performance of one or more individual players within it. By its very nature then, spot fixing is a more discreet manipulation of a game, making it much more difficult to detect than match fixing.

So what's the motivation for spot fixing or match fixing? The answer is, of course, money. Gambling on the outcome of a sporting event is a classic transaction at the bookmakers, so knowing the result before a match is played guarantees a win. Betting on cricket matches, particularly those televised in the Indian subcontinent, can be a hugely lucrative business. A very large amount of money can be made if a gambler knows in advance how a particular batsman or bowler is going to perform, since bets can be placed on every move they make.

In August 2010, following an article in the British tabloid newspaper News of the World, it was alleged that during the Pakistan cricket team's tour of England, three players had accepted spot-fixing bribes from sports agent and bookie Mazhar Majeed. Their brief was to deliberately underperform in the 4th test at Lords by bowling no-balls at specific points during the over. A subsequent investigation resulted in the suspension of the three players by the ICC (International Cricket Council) and the arrest of Majeed on the charge of match fixing. Just as the furore was beginning to die down, spot fixing hit the headlines again in September 2010, when it was alleged that it had played a part in scoring patterns relating to the One Day International between Pakistan and England.

Background – spot fixing

The expression spot fixing has emerged by analogy with the gambling term spot betting. Spot betting is the practice of betting on particular aspects of a sporting event, and since the likelihood of making accurate predictions about details is slimmer than it would be for guessing an overall result, winnings can be much, much higher. Spot fixing is therefore the criminal activity of paying a competitive sportsperson to deliberately act in a way that enables someone to land winning spot bets.

Though the recent scandal in the cricket world has brought the term into the spotlight, the potential for spot fixing is not confined to this sport. In football, for example, spot betters can bet on details such as the number of fouls or corners during a match.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 27th September 2010.

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