The Betting Scandal That Is Plaguing Brazilian Football

When Brazil legalized sports betting in 2018, a veritable gold rush ensued with big names scrambling to take hold of a market that is on its way to becoming the largest of its type in the world. However, what Jair Bolsonaro’s government failed to do was put regulations in place, whether it be for tax purposes, legal concerns, or indeed a separation of the sports themselves and the people looking to make money off of fit. Admittedly, this is not the biggest failure of the Bolsonaro regime, but it leads us to the most recent scandal gripping both Serie A and B, Brazil’s top two footballing divisions.


The initial investigation was opened in regards to three matches that took place in November 2022, later extended to 11 matches, with new findings being uncovered almost daily. To this day, 16 individuals have been charged, amongst them around 8 professional footballers. Their clubs range from giants Santos to lower league sides, with players receiving either upfront payment or later payouts for offenses like receiving red cards or causing penalties.


The federation has issued the usual statements of collaboration with authorities, clubs and FIFA and have stated that there is no threat of suspending the league. Apart from that they are keeping quiet and being relatively sparse in their comments, which might lead some to believe that the investigation so far has barely scratched the surface of the issue. Symptomatic of this case are the lower league players, whose salaries often do not even reach 200$ per year.


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With such a low standard of living, the prospect of earning multiple times that for receiving a yellow card might seem enticing to people who are struggling to sustain themselves and their families. We should not be so quick to judge these offenders as, in most cases with crime, they are simply symptoms of a broken and unregulated system. This investigation has already seen punishments handed out, with a clamor for more widespread reform growing more and louder.


The case is as far-reaching as the US, where Colorado Rapids midfielder Max Alves is not directly charged, but has been placed under administrative leave, as he is suspected to be linked to the match-fixing group. He is alleged to have received 12000 dollars for receiving a yellow card in a game against LA Galaxy.


Back in Brazil, a number of politicians have already made promises of parliamentary commissions and full investigations. However, many journalists have been quick to point out the hypocrisy of a situation where the lowest-income offenders are being prosecuted whilst the big betting companies are allowed to thrive and rake in huge profits, often sponsoring the very clubs where these offenses have taken place.


By: Eduard Holdis / @He_Ftbl

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Anadolu Agency