Ten years ago, the “ghost goal” became a thing, thanks to Jose Mourinho’s highly-quotable paranoia.
Now we should be worried about the phenomenon of “ghost games,” according to a report in the Telegraph describing how fake matches are being staged in order to defraud bookmakers and gamblers.
“It is perpetrated either by corrupt employees of teams or of sports data-gathering firms, those with the computing skills to plant false information, or any combination of the three,” the paper writes, adding that three such games have been documented in about a year.
The report cites the recent example of Belarussian Premier League sides FC Slutsk and Shakhter Soligorsk, who played out a 2-1 win for Slutsk two weeks ago. Or did they?
Supposedly, Slutsk, the underdogs, pulled out a surprise victory courtesy of a couple of late goals. You’d have got long odds on that from betting sites that change their odds during games, responding to the match action.
Perhaps what’s most disturbing about this apparent trend is the sheer audacity and scale of the corruption. It’s one thing to fix a game, or a moment in a game: a fixer need only get to a referee, a couple of senior players or maybe an owner. But to fake an entire match in the top-flight of a European league? That suggests either huge levels of collusion, or a computer hacker with serious chutzpah.
It seems even Europe’s most prestigious competition might not be safe from fixers. Recent news out of Romania has police investigating allegations that a 2007 Champions League qualifier between Dinamo Bucharest and Lazio was fixed.