Sports on the Gambling Table: An Institutional Approach to Match-fixing
This thesis explores the ongoing global problem of match-fixing in sport. In contrast to rational-choice perspectives focusing on individual moral failure, this thesis advances an institutional approach that explains match-fixing as a consequence of structural power relations and systemic limitations. Drawing upon new institutionalism in political science and Berger and Luckmann’s (1967) concept of institutionalisation, the thesis examines how the problem of match-fixing is created, defined and addressed within the context of contemporary sports betting. The South Korean professional football league (the K-League) serves as the central case study of analysis based on its 2011 match-fixing scandal. Employing a critical realist, multi-method research design (consisting of contextualisation, document analysis and interviews), the investigation analyses three interrelated mechanisms of the South Korean football-betting regime: (1) institutional design, (2) ideas and (3) policy instruments. The analysis and interpretation focus on three major findings. First, the constituents of the football-betting regime are not neutral policy regulators, but stakeholders that benefit from the business of football betting. It suggests that the more dependent they become on betting revenues, the more sports become favourable to betting and, in turn, vulnerable to match-fixing. Second, the institutional design of the regime is structured in a way that distances football from betting, rendering football betting socially legitimate. By contrast, it sacrifices the capability to insulate and protect players (as betting objects) from outside influence, which results in the increased likelihood of match-fixing. However, such institutional failure is compensated by the deployment of the individualised idea of sport integrity that, in effect, shifts the responsibility of the regime to individual athletes. Third, policy instruments implemented to combat match-fixing (education, sanctions and betting pattern monitoring) reinforce the existing intersection of power, interests and ideas, contributing to the normalisation of sports betting and the legitimation of the football-betting regime. Overall, this research suggests that match-fixing is a problem that is created, defined and addressed in relation to the paradoxical nature of sports-betting regimes as social institutions. Thus, it is argued that match-fixing is framed as a matter of individual morality, not because the act of fixing a match per se is immoral (compared to betting itself), but because the institution is too big to fail. The interpretation of findings also proposes that match-fixing cannot be excised altogether, but should rather be taken as something more endogenous to the institution, insofar as sports (and players) effectively operate on a gambling table. The thesis’ conclusion suggests that by problematising contested trade-off points around social problems, institutional studies can introduce a level of reflexivity in the design of social institutions.
Advisor: Jackson, Steven J.; Sam, Michael P.
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: sports betting; gambling; match-fixing; institutionalism; sport policy; sport governance; policy instrument; football(soccer); South Korea; K-League; institutional design; integrity; institutional ideas; countermeasures; sport management; sociology of sport; regime; sports-betting regime; blame shift; legitimation; political sociology approach; institutional approach
Research Type: Thesis