An International Centre of Excellence in Public Policy and Research

When Winning is Not Enough: The Disturbing Trend of Match-Fixing in Kenyan Football


Football in Kenya has been a platform for fair competition, teamwork, the pursuit of excellence, and an avenue for financial independence among the players, football teams, and the other participants who work together to create an engaging and competitive football match to showcase skills, teamwork, and sportsmanship. However, in recent years, Kenya has witnessed a disheartening trend that threatens the integrity and spirit of sports; the alarming rise of cases of match-fixing. Match-fixing refers to the manipulation of the outcome of a sporting event, usually intending to make a financial gain. It involves various illegal activities, such as bribing players, officials, or referees, manipulating results, or influencing specific aspects of the game. Match-fixing takes many forms, such as players intentionally playing poorly, referees making biased decisions, or coaches influencing the outcome of a game through tactics or substitutions. It can also involve outside individuals or groups offering bribes or other incentives to influence the outcome of a game.

Match-fixing has infiltrated multiple levels of Kenyan football, from grassroots competitions to professional leagues. This has left a trail of disillusionment among fans and undermined the integrity of football and could lead to loss of public trust and confidence in the football industry. It also results in financial losses for football organizations, sponsors, and broadcasters, and for individuals who bet on sports. In addition, match-fixing could have a negative impact on the development of football in Kenya as it can discourage talented athletes from pursuing careers in sports and could also reduce the number of spectators and fans who attend sports events. This blog focuses on the alarming rise of match-fixing in Kenyan football, its detrimental effects, and the urgent need for stringent measures to combat this menace.

Incidents of Match-fixing and Emerging Issues

Kenya has recorded several cases of match-fixing over the last ten years. The 2010 Kenya Premier League (KPL) match-fixing scandal involved several Kenya Premier League teams and officials. Investigations led to suspension of several officials and players, and some were later found guilty of match-fixing. The 2012 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup match-fixing scandal involved several Kenyan football players who were found guilty of match-fixing in a 2010 World Cup qualifying match against Tunisia. In the 2016 National Super League (NSL) match-fixing scandal, several NSL teams and officials were implicated in match-fixing. Several players and officials were either suspended or banned from football. In the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) match-fixing scandal, several Kenyan football officials were implicated during the CHAN tournament, and some were later banned from playing football. In February 2020, FIFA banned four Kenyan players, including one for life, for taking part in an “international conspiracy” to fix league matches. In 2021, six (6) players from Zoo Kericho FC were found guilty of match-fixing by FIFA’s integrity unit and expelled from the Kenyan Premier League. The latest scandal was in February 2023 where two players from the Nairobi-based Mathare United were barred from taking part in any football-related activities, pending a match-fixing syndicate. In March 2023, one Kenyan and two foreigners were arrested for being involved in issuing bribes and match-fixing.

Consequences of Match-Fixing and Emerging Issues

Despite heavy investments in sports welfare and infrastructure by the government, and football being governed and regulated by the Football Kenya Federation (FKF), Confederation of African Football (CAF) and being a member of The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), match-fixing in football is still persistent in Kenya and there is no legislation in the country criminalizing it.

The consequences of match-fixing in football extend far beyond the immediate sporting arena. Match fixing leads to loss of integrity in football. Integrity forms the foundation of competitive football and other sports activities and when it is eroded, it leaves the fans disenchanted and disillusioned. The spectators lose faith in their favourite football teams and the emotional connection between sportsmen and supporters diminishes.

Match-fixing is a destructive force in sports that can have far-reaching and long-lasting effects. It has a wide range of negative effects on sports, players, fans and the society as a whole. These effects can be extreme and damaging, impacting the integrity of sports and the well-being of those involved.

Match-fixing leads to lack of reputation, and it jeopardizes the potential growth and development of football in Kenya, as sponsors, investors, and broadcasters become hesitant to associate themselves with tainted events. Sportsmen and football teams found guilty of match-fixing also suffer significant damage to their reputation, which can impact their prospects and opportunities. They are likely to lose opportunities to compete in this sport or face bans from future competitions.

Match-fixing often results in significant financial losses for those who bet on the outcome of a match, and for football teams, players and sponsors. Instances of interfering with outcomes lead to a decline in fan attendance, sponsorships, broadcast rights revenue and the money invested to the football industry by regional and international football bodies.

The absence of clear and stringent regulations coupled with inadequate oversight mechanisms has created a fertile ground for perpetration of match-fixing. The weak regulatory frameworks or the absence altogether enables but also encourages corruption and a lack of transparency within the football industry. This environment has become a breeding ground for the sinister practice of match-fixing, which threatens the integrity of Kenyan football.

The exponential growth of the gambling industry in recent years has increased the risk of match-fixing. Betting in sports has become a major source of revenue, thus creating a market for those who want to manipulate the outcome of games for their own financial gain and hedge against losses. With the rise in sports betting, a substantial amount of money is dangled on various sporting football matches and the public places a bet on the outcome of these games hoping to win huge sums of money based on the results. In this case, individuals with insider knowledge or access to players, coaches or referees may be tempted to exploit their positions, which gives them an opportunity to manipulate the outcome of games to ensure that bets they have placed or that others have placed are successful.

Countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and Nigeria have recognized the threat posed by match-fixing due to the growth of the gambling industry and have implemented regulations, policies, and laws to combat match-fixing and promote fair play. These measures have criminalized match-fixing and have established bodies or agencies responsible for monitoring and investigating suspicious activities.

The Betting and Lotteries and Gaming Act No. CAP 131 provides for the control and licensing of betting, gaming premises and for the imposition and recovery of a tax on betting and gaming and the authorizing of public lotteries. The Act created the avenue for the creation of the Betting Control and Licensing Board, which is the regulatory authority responsible for overseeing and regulating the betting industry in Kenya. The board is tasked with issuing licenses, monitoring operations, and ensuring compliance with betting regulations. Kenya’s betting policy regulates and oversights the betting companies to ensure fairness and transparency of betting activities but does not have match-fixing in its terms of reference.

When players and the technical bench are not adequately compensated or are not paid on time, they may face financial difficulties, this has largely contributed to low morale to deliver results and has exposed teams to vulnerability when they are approached to influence the outcome of matches. Australia and South Africa have implemented regulations and have established minimum wage standards for players, coaches, and referees in certain sports. These regulations aim to ensure that individuals receive fair and consistent compensation for their work. Some sports associations often negotiate collective bargaining agreements with sports leagues and organizations, which include provisions for player salaries, benefits, and other financial incentives.

Failure by the government to recognize talented sportsmen and teams makes them feel undervalued or overlooked when they do not receive sufficient recognition or support from the government. They are likely to become frustrated with their career prospects and financial situations, dwindling their patriotism and loyalty towards the nation, thereby creating an environment where corruption and unethical behaviour in football management are more likely to occur, including match-fixing offers.

The United Kingdom has established the Sports Betting Integrity Unit to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption in sports. This anchors the Bribery Act of 2010, which criminalizes Match fixing, and individuals found guilty can face imprisonment and/or fines. In Australia, match-fixing is prohibited under the Crimes Amendment Integrity in Sports Act 2013, and individuals found guilty can face imprisonment and/or fines. The Australian government has also established the Sports Integrity Australia agency to investigate and prevent corruption in sports. India has also established the Sports Integrity Unit to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption in sports and has enacted into law the Prevention of Corruption Act, which has criminalized sporting crimes and specifically match-fixing.

In South Africa, match-fixing is prohibited under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 while in Nigeria, the National Sports Commission Act of 2011 prohibits match-fixing and has criminalized the act. The Ghana Football Association has also established a Code of Ethics and Fair Play to promote integrity in football, and the country’s criminal code prohibits match-fixing and has hefty fines and stringent punishments for those found practicing, aiding and abetting the crime.

In Kenya, The Sports Act 2013 is the primary legislation that governs sports in Kenya and establishes the legal framework for the development, promotion, and regulation of sports in the country. The Anti-Doping Act, 2016 provides measures to combat doping in sports. It outlines the regulations and procedures for testing, investigations, sanctions, and other anti-doping measures. However, the available legislation does not have provisions on how to specifically deal with match-fixing, leaving it to be very hard to prosecute and in case of any proof of offence, it is treated as just a misdemeanor.

Conclusion and Recommendations

To combat match-fixing in the Kenyan football industry, it is essential to implement a comprehensive approach.

There is need to amend the National Sports Act of 2013 to include specific regulations and severe penalties for those involved in match-fixing. This will act as a deterrent and create a legal framework to combat this illegal activity effectively. Additionally, the government could collaborate with sports organizations and law enforcement agencies to ensure effective enforcement of these regulations.

The government could establish strict regulations for betting companies. These regulations will require the companies to educate their clients about the potential consequences of excessive gambling and its impact on match-fixing. Moreover, the government could closely monitor betting activities to detect any suspicious betting patterns.

To reduce the susceptibility of players and technical staff to bribery and other influences, it is crucial to establish a standardized remuneration criterion for players and members of the technical bench. This could be accompanied by timely disbursement of salaries and bonuses to ensure financial stability and discourage unethical behaviour. Adequate compensation will incentivize players to prioritize their careers over engaging in match-fixing.

The government could do more to recognize and appreciate the efforts of football players and stakeholders by instituting awards and incentives for outstanding performance and contributions to the sport. This recognition will boost morale and motivate players to maintain integrity in the game. Additionally, the government could invest in talent development programmes and provide a clear path for the growth of young talents to encourage ethical behaviour in football.

To combat match-fixing effectively, there is need for comprehensive awareness and education campaigns targeted at players, officials, and the public. These campaigns could emphasize on the dangers and consequences of match-fixing, and the importance of ethical conduct in football. Collaboration with sports organizations and educational institutions will ensure the message reaches the intended audience.

The government and relevant authorities could take measures to promote transparency and accountability in the football industry by implementing measures to combat corruption and encouraging stakeholders to adhere to ethical standards. Transparency in management and decision-making will help create an environment where match-fixing is less likely to occur.

To enhance monitoring and detection of match-fixing instances, the government could create an independent investigation bureau or unit solely focused on investigating sports-related corruption and match-fixing cases. This bureau could collaborate with sports organizations and law enforcement agencies to gather evidence and prosecute offenders.

By implementing these recommendations, the football industry could take significant steps towards safeguarding its reputation, integrity, and future. Collaboration among various stakeholders, including the government, sports organizations, and the public, is vital in ensuring the success of these measures.

Authors: Jedidiah Muriithi Maitai, KIPPRA Young Professional

George Chege, KIPPRA Young Professional

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