Before entering any further, please note that the material cited and quoted below is from a Chinese article published inside the Yangtze Evening Post on December 18, 2012. All translations are my own.
The Chinese Basketball Association is currently dealing with the threat of in-game point shaving, according to a report published yesterday in the Yangtze Evening Paper, which includes both foreign players and Chinese referees, the latter of whom can reportedly be bought out for CNY 50,000.
No specific players or referees were named in the report.
The Yangtze Evening Paper’s report goes into detail about current suspicions of point shaving, acts of which are done with the intention of covering point spreads that are set by outside sport betting companies. The article leads with the alleged involvement of foreign players.
From the report:
There is no direct evidence of referees affecting scorelines, but it is already an open secret in the league that foreign players are involved in gambling-related behavior. Last round [Round 9], a home team was up eight points with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Common sense would indicate that the game’s result was already in hand. But their main foreigner had several puzzling turnovers, specifically one where he didn’t gather the ball when it was right in front of his eyes. His opponent scooped up the loose ball and scored an easy basket in transition. After these series of aberrations, the away team came back to force overtime. Even though the home team ended up winning, these odd occurrences at the hands of its foreign player was extremely unsettling to both the coaching staff and the Chinese players. There was another game recently where the same foreign player displayed more odd behavior. In the game’s final moments he had a turnover and a travelling violation which ended up costing his team a victory.
The actual game or the name of the foreign player are not mentioned. There were two games in Round 8 that went into overtime, Beijing at Shanxi and Jilin at Jiangsu.
The report goes on to quote an anonymous insider, who who blames difficult to manage foreigners and their network for the league’s gambling problem.
“Right now foreign players are truly difficult to manage. First, most of the time they’re living outside the team facility in their own rented apartment and the club has no way of overseeing them. Second, most of the time players are in touch with an agent and their opinions are directed to coaches and management based on the advice of the agent. Lastly, foreign gambling groups can all get in touch with foreign players, so the club is in a very passive position as a result.”
To add, the same insider also has “reliable information” that there is likely more than one foreign player who is involved with gambling, “specifically some ‘particularly sly ones’ who have been planted inside the league for many years.”
Suggestions over foreigners fixing matches are not new to the CBA. In 2011, Tianjin Gold Lions forward, Herve Lamizana, was accused of intentionally throwing the result of a February 27th match against Shandong. Tianjin, who lost the game, was out of the playoffs at the time, while Shandong was still fighting for a post-season berth. Lamizana’s contract was terminated after the game, though Tianjin never publicly stated the reason as to why.
But the league’s gambling problem is not just limited to foreign players, however. According to the report, with handicapping becoming “more and more accurate,” says an insider with experience in sports betting, games are now more open than ever to point shaving. Further adding to things is the increased amount of money being bet on games, with books receiving up to RMB 300 million in wagers per game.
And referees are in on it.
The article explains that point spreads, which allow bettors to place money on how many points a team will win by, is currently the favored method of betting on games and that referees will officiate games with the numbers in mind. With the majority of the action being placed on home teams, referees thus tend to lean towards calling the game accordingly for the home team. However, away teams can also receive a good whistle in certain situations. Point spreads are thrown out in the event of overtime, which means referees will favor an away team down the stretch of a close game if the home team is not covering the spread. Once in overtime, the referee with then call the game for the favored home team, who will cover as long as they win.
Based on anonymous reports cited in the article, it is rumored that the price to buy a referee is CNY 50,000.
Speculation over referee corruption has been rampant, almost since the league’s inception. The most recent high profile incident came two years ago when senior CBA referee, Wang Zhuoping, became the main character of a controversially officiated game in the first round of the playoffs between Xinjiang and Beijing. Wang, who made several highly questionable calls against Beijing in the fourth quarter, was temporarily suspended from refereeing in senior level CBA games before eventually being reinstated last season.
The NiuBBall take on all this: Truly, I have no idea if any of this is true or not. I do find it odd, however, that the author chooses to write that “there is no direct evidence of referees affecting scorelines,” which is true, yet refrains from writing the same about foreigners fixing games, which is equally true. I also find it interesting that besides a little write-up reviewing the series of inexplainable turnovers at the end of a game, there’s absolutely zero good evidence put forward that would make me believe this stuff is really going on such as: What the point spread was for the games in question, what the final score was, the percentage of home teams that have covered this season, etc. etc. etc. Quotes from an anonymous insider complaining over tough to manage foreigners, which by the way isn’t the first or last time you’ll hear that in the media, don’t exactly do it for me either.
And about referees: Again, I just don’t know. What I do know, though, is that foreign refs have been brought into officiate the CBA Finals since 2005, and there involvement both in the Finals and in earlier rounds have increased every single year since then. And I also know that its an open secret within the league that teams have attempted to bribe officials. Actually, its a public secret as well; Guangdong was fined RMB 30,000 in 2011 for trying to bribe officials during a regular season match against Bayi.
More questions: What exactly are these allegations against foreign players based off of? Why aren’t there any mentions of previous perceived shadiness? Why isn’t there any… evidence? Why isn’t there any speculation against Chinese players, who make up the vast majority of the league’s player population? If this is foreign point shaving is a so-called known fact inside of Chinese basketball circles, why hasn’t the whistle been blown?
So is this happening? Again, I don’t know. But going back to what I do know, there is a precedent for this kind of stuff inside of Chinese professional sports. Earlier this year, the Chinese Soccer League completed a three year investigation into corruption which resulted in lengthy prison sentences for two ex-heads of the league, as well as a former national team captain, four former national team players and a referee who officiated a World Cup match.
So you tell me what you think in the comments.