IPL Match Fixing and Corruption Spot the History of the World’s Fourth Largest Sports League

The Glory and the 15 Years of Scandals and Controversy

For just 15 years since its creation, the Indian Premier League has gloriously risen to the fourth spot in brand valuation among all major sports leagues in the world, rivaling the likes of USA’s national football, baseball, basketball and hockey leagues and the UK’s Premier League. At the same time, the 15 short seasons played by the IPL have been spotted by numerous scandals and controversies related to corruption, match fixing and financial improprieties.

In 2019, the IPL brand was valued at $6.2 billion which placed it in the fourth position among the Top 6 sports leagues of the world. The first three spots were taken by US tournaments led by the National Football League (with its brand valued at $13 billion), the Major League Baseball ($10 billion), and the National Basketball Association ($7.4 billion). Overhauled by the IPL were the English Premier League ($5.3 billion) in fourth place, and the US National Hockey League ($4.4 billion) in fifth.

During its existence, the IPL has undoubtedly brought significant benefits to Indian cricket and especially to young players giving them the opportunity to play side by side with the best cricketers in the world and to be trained by the best coaches. Thanks to the IPL, cricket has reached the country’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities which has further added strength to the Indian National Team.

At the other end of the reputation spectrum, IPL scandals started with its first Chairman and Commissioner Lalit Modi being removed from his office after allegations of corruption and financial improprieties. And that was the man himself who had conceived and created the IPL a bit earlier in 2007.

In 2013, Rajasthan Royals cricketer S. N. Sreesanth was arrested together with two other players for match fixing and was subsequently banned from all cricket formats by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). In 2015, the Rajasthan Royals and the Chennai Super Kings were suspended for two years for IPL betting and match-fixing activities by the teams’ owners in 2013.

Other Countries are Solving Match-Fixing and Sports Integrity Issues Through Regulation on Betting and Gambling

In 2019, Sweden moved away from a state monopoly regime and shifted to a regulated gambling and sports betting market under the supervision of the Swedish Gaming Authority (SGA). The move was motivated by a desire to gain control over the sector aimed at enhancing customer protection, tax revenues and sports integrity.

While match-fixing and cheating were defined as criminal offenses in Swedish legislation, the enhanced traceability of suspicious activities on licensed betting platforms provided for easier and more efficient fight against corruption in sports .

Rendering the principle of the ‘informed choice’ obsolete, Swedish gaming regulation required an active role of operators towards the prevention of addictions and other problem gambling and betting behaviors. Various responsible gaming measures such as a national-level self-exclusion program accessed through panic buttons on all platforms’ pages, self-imposed spending limits, bans on gaming on credit, fast rounds on slots, VIP and loyalty programs, and limits on advertising were introduced.

At the same time, punishments for illegal and unlicensed operation of gaming sites were increased and a mechanism for blocking of payments to such platforms was implemented.

India and the IPL can Benefit by Following Sweden’s Example

India too can implement such a licensing regime and regulate cricket predictions and sportsbook platforms and criminalize match-fixing. Such a move will introduce customer protection to desi sports fans and bettors and would raise tax collection which can be used for various welfare and sports infrastructure projects. Last but not least, such measures can greatly enhance the integrity of the IPL and help clear its stained reputation.

Different estimates value the size of the sports betting market in India between $130 and $150 billion annually generated by 14 crore regular bettors and a total of 37 crore people who bet around big sporting events. Around 80 percent of the country’s sportsbook market revolves around cricket and IPL satta, with most of it happening along illegal and black market channels. Such an environment denies any protection to bettors, and instead of raising taxes, illegal money flows fund small and big criminal organizations and their illicit activities. It is no wonder that corruption and match-fixing proliferate in the country and the IPL is a prominent example of that.

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