Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The ghosts fixed the match - Full Article

By Declan Hill

The fixing of fictitious matches is among the outcomes of a sports data revolution that is currently transforming sport, writes Declan Hill, and examines the newest phenomenon in the world of match rigging; ghost-fixing.

...A Real-Life Dick Francis Novel

At least, the Slovenian ski officials actually staged a race and then tried to fix the data coming out of the event. The ‘industrial-scale’ ghost-fixing in endurance horse racing that took place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sounds like a plot from a Dick Francis thriller.

Long-distance – endurance - horse racing was originally inspired by the feats of the Russian and Polish cavalry in the First World War. The sport is now a matter of extraordinary prestige on the Arabian Peninsula. The races range from 50 to 160-km and the horses and riders can race for hours across a hot terrain.

The problem is that the sport in the Middle East has been marked by just about every scandal possible – in at least three cases riders allegedly changed horses in mid-race, there are numerous cases of doped horses and the sheer abuse of the animals can be horrendous. In March of 2015, an Australian horse dropped to its knees in mid-race with two shattered legs, prompting one observer on social media to write that, “the rider should be immediately taken to the stable and shot”.

However, all those scandals pale in comparison with ghost-fixing – or ‘phantom riding’ – that erupted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier this year. According the UK-based journalist who broke this story - Pippa Cuckson – someone in that country did not just fix one event, they had created at least thirteen entirely fictitious horse races.

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