The more that wagering grows, the more appealing it could become to fixers.
While the World Cup raises the profile of women’s soccer players, it is likely to do little to address the chronic lack of financial support those athletes face in many countries. That, too, could make them an appealing target for match fixers, who typically have targeted players on lower-tier men’s leagues or teams, rather than those in the game’s most high-profile leagues, where players draw multimillion-dollar salaries.
Ven said that while there are no indications the women’s game has been targeted in a meaningful way, working conditions broadly for players made it more “vulnerable” than “Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.”
In France, where the gambling industry is heavily regulated, there have been hardly any examples of attempts to manipulate sporting events involving women’s sports. Arjel, the body responsible for the online gambling industry, received only one alert last year related to a female athlete. That came after the woman, a table tennis player, blew the whistle herself after being approached by fixers.
Charles Coppolani, Arjel’s president, said he believed female soccer players have a larger incentive, one driven by a passion to promote their sport and silence doubters, that meant they were less likely to agree to fix games.
“Of course there’s always an individual, but the general idea is they want to prove something,” Coppolani said.
But the scale of the World Cup, not to mention the potential for embarrassment, has meant nothing is being taken for granted.
Last month, representatives of the agencies responsible for protecting the game gathered in Paris to prep their responses to four potential match-fixing scenarios, including responses to a sudden change in odds, or what actions to take if there were rumors surrounding a match official.