As much as €1 billion is gambled globally on every English Premier League game, the vast majority in illegal bets, the head of a sports integrity watchdog said on Wednesday.
Chris Eaton, the executive director of the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security, said the huge sums could be placed on results, regardless of which two teams are playing.
“Up to €1 billion is bet on each Premier League game,” said Eaton. “Absolutely nothing is immune.”
Eaton estimated that up to 80 percent of the amount gambled on each English game is through illegal betting.
He said people would bet mostly on half-time and full-time scores and that was where the “big money” could be made.
The illegal betting occurs in countries, or administrative regions within countries, where sports gambling is outlawed.
There is no suggestion that the bets affected the outcome of any Premier League matches.
Eaton, a former FIFA head of security, was speaking in Doha on the sidelines of a joint UNESCO-ICSS meeting to follow up on measures designed to combat match-fixing adopted by 121 countries in 2013 at a conference in Berlin.
Some 60 experts from around the world are attending the two-day event in Qatar, examining progress made around the world in combatting match-fixing and sports manipulation.
Eaton said the problem of match-fixing was so great that the future of sport was in question and urged governments around the world to use their legislative powers.
“Sport will not survive 10 more years of this,” he warned.
“If governments don’t intervene in a collective, global and universal way on the issue of betting fraud-based match-fixing, then sport will continue to suffer significant credibility problems.”
He continued: “Governments are not reacting. Governments are still looking for sport to cure its own problem or some miraculous silver bullet.”
Eaton, a former policeman, estimated that the illegal sports gambling market – fuelled primarily by organised crime gangs in eastern Europe and betting syndicates in Asia – was worth around €1.3 trillion.
The vast majority of that is spent on football, with cricket and tennis also popular sports for illegal gambling, he said.
The €1.3 trillion figure may even be a conservative estimate. One sports analyst earlier this year said the global gambling market could be worth up to €2.6 trillion-trillion annually.
“It’s getting worse because its continuing and therefore it’s becoming entrenched,” said Eaton.
He said there were four main areas where match-fixing could occur in football: international friendlies, including club friendlies, dead rubbers in competitive qualifying matches, junior competitions and lower league games.