What were just sour grapes and generic vitriol towards John Terry and Chelsea Football Club (because they’re John Terry and Chelsea Football Club) regarding the orchestrated substitution and guard of honor for the Chelsea captain in Sunday’s Premier League finale has been successfully turned into something more serious.
The FA has asked betting operators for any information on bets received in relation to John Terry’s substitution v Sunderland.— Richard Conway (@richard_conway) May 22, 2017
There’s been no official word or statement from the Football Association regarding any inquiry, but the latest reports claim that they have contacted betting operators who were offering odds for a prop bet on JT’s 26th minute sub (or perhaps a first substitution in a match, or something similar that may have been illegally influenced).
Earlier reports have played down this angle, with the Premier League itself unconcerned. But as Ashley Cole once told us, The FA are a bunch of twinberries easily influenced by media narrative.
"The Premier League is thought to be relaxed about the matter, and the Football Association is not commenting."https://t.co/bcw62NUSL3— Richard Conway (@richard_conway) May 22, 2017
Spot fixing (not to be confused with match fixing) is the concept of affecting a certain phase of play that does not necessarily impact the outcome of the match. A famous example in English football is Matt Le Tissier’s story about kicking the ball out on purpose to win (or at least not lose) a bet on when the first throw-in would take place in a match, or a more recent one being that goalkeeper pie eating stunt that ended in said goalkeeper resigning from the team. Terry’s 26th minute substitution could be looked at under a similar lens — a match event of little practical influence that was pre-arranged — but that does not necessarily make it illegal. Spot fixing isn’t exactly an obvious or easy thing to prove or point out even in the best of circumstances*. That the substitution did not actually take place until the 28th minute also would have little impact on the actual spot fixing charge if one is ever to materialize. It would however impact whoever won or lost money on these bets.
As per the Guardian, an example is Paddy Power, who were accepting novelty bets at 100-to-1 of Terry being replaced between 26:00 and 26:59. It’s unclear how these paid out for the three (3!) punters who actually bet it, since the official Premier League record is that the sub took place in the 28th minute, but again, that’s besides the point.
Should we be concerned? Probably not, though betting companies have a very strong influence and if they lost money on this, they could be looking to exact revenge. The substitution happened with the knowledge of most everybody on the pitch, including the whole Chelsea team, the staff, Sunderland boss David Moyes (who since resigned on account of being a terrible manager), and perhaps some of their players as well. Even referee Neil Swarbrick played along willingly and joined in on the applause. This wasn’t unusual at all; it was simply a nice gesture. But this is why we can’t have nice things.
Of course, the FA could just outlaw all betting on football (or at least prop bets) and then we wouldn’t have to deal with such farcical situations, but don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.
* The day before, Bayern took off Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm in the second half, ensuring them a massive round of applause from the home support. These subs, in their final professional appearances for the club, were no doubt pre-arranged as well. Don’t see anyone clamoring for a spot fixing charge there...