Spot-fixing refers to illegal activity in a sport in which a specific aspect of a game, unrelated to the final result but upon which a betting market exists, is fixed; examples include something as minor as timing a no ball or wide delivery in cricket, or timing the first throw-in or corner in association football. Spot-fixing attempts to defraud bookmakers by a player taking a pre-arranged action to fix the result of that specific event. Spot-fixing differs from match fixing, in which the final result of a match is fixed; or point shaving, in which corrupt players (or officials) attempt to limit the margin of victory of the favoured team. Spot-fixing is more difficult to detect than match fixing or point shaving, and by its nature can be perpetrated by a lone fraudulent player without needing any other players or officials to co-operate. The growth of internet gambling and increased variety of betting options (e.g. spread betting, first-scorer betting) resulted in the emergence of spot-fixing, particularly through the first decade of the 2000s.
Following his retirement, Matt Le Tissier admitted that he had bet on the timing of the first throw-in in a match he played for Southampton against Wimbledon in 1995. The plan failed when a team mate who was unaware of the scam managed to keep his underhit pass on the pitch. Le Tissier was forced to quickly kick the ball from play to prevent himself losing money on the bet but neither won nor lost money after managing to kick the ball out after 70 seconds. He stated that he felt so silly about the incident that he never attempted it again.
Spot fixing in cricket first came to international prominence in the 2010 Pakistan tour of England, when it was determined that Pakistani players Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir intentionally bowled no-balls on specific deliveries as part of a conspiracy involving captain Salman Butt to defraud bookmakers. As a result, Salman Butt was banned for ten years, Asif for seven years and Amir for five years. The matter became a criminal investigation that resulted in custodial sentences for four people involved; in November 2011, Butt was sentenced to 30 months' imprisonment, with Asif being imprisoned for one year and Amir jailed for six months.
In India, five players in IPL Season 5 (2012) were suspended for spot-fixing. The five players were Mohnish Mishra, Shalabh Srivastava, TP Sudhindra, Harmeet Singh and Abhinav Bali. The suspensions were not for any specific event during the season, but a sting operation revealed all five either discussing earlier cases of spot-fixing they had been involved in, or seeking future spot-fixing opportunities.
In India, three Indian players in IPL Season 6 (2013) were arrested for spot-fixing: Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila. Along with them, eleven bookmakers were arrested. The Delhi Police arrested the three players in a post-midnight operation in Mumbai on 16 May 2013 for accepting payments of up to Rs. 6 million, for giving away a pre-determined number of runs in an over. On 13 September, Sreesanth was given a lifetime ban from the sport.
In England, allegations of spot-fixing were made against Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield, after he bowled poorly in a Pro40 match against Durham in September 2009. Westfield later pleaded guilty to accepting money for spot-fixing in the match, specifically that he attempted to concede twelve runs from his first over (although he conceded only ten); he was banned for five years and his Essex team-mate and former Pakistan Test bowler Danish Kaneria received a life ban after he was found to have orchestrated the fix.
The advent of Twenty20 cricket is said to have made spot-fixing more difficult to detect in cricket, because the faster and more variable nature of the game makes anomalies related to spot-fixing less visible.
Australian rugby league player Ryan Tandy was found guilty of spot-fixing during a 2010 National Rugby League season match between North Queensland and Canterbury-Bankstown. Tandy, playing for Canterbury-Bankstown, was involved in spot-fixing the first score of the match to be a North Queensland penalty goal. Observers noted that there had been an unusually high proportion of bets taken on the penalty goal option for the game. Then, in the opening minutes of the game, Tandy was found to have deliberately conceded a knock-on from the match's kick-off and then a penalty for slowing down the play-the-ball in the Cowboys' first attacking set in front of the goalposts, giving North Queensland a chance to kick an easy penalty goal. As it happened, the spot-fixing attempt was unsuccessful, as North Queensland passed up its penalty goal opportunity and scored a try instead. In 2011, Tandy was found guilty of attempting to dishonestly obtain a financial advantage on 6 October 2011, and he received a six-month correction order from the courts and a life ban from rugby league.
- Mehaffey, John (9 February 2009). "Q+A-Cricket-Spot fixing latest threat to game's integrity | Reuters". Uk.reuters.com. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Selvey, Mike (15 April 2010). "Spotting spot-fixing is harder than ever in Twenty20 era | Mike Selvey | Sport". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- Wilson, Steve (3 September 2009). "Matthew Le Tissier admits being part of attempted betting scam at Southampton". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- "UK | England | Hampshire | Le Tissier in police bet inquiry". BBC News. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- "Pakistan match-fixing claim: what is spot-fixing?". London: Telegraph. 29 August 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
- CricketCountry Staff (15 May 2012). "BCCI suspends five players accused in spot-fixing". Cricketcountry.com. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- DNA Webdesk (16 May 2013). "Sreesanth, 2 other Rajasthan Royals players arrested for spot-fixing, suspended from IPL". DNA. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- "Ex-Essex cricketer Mervyn Westfield admits spot betting charge". BBC News. 12 January 2012.
- James Rowland (26 September 2013). "Mervyn Westfield spot-fixing scandal: a timeline". The Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 21 August 2014.
- "Former NRL player Ryan Tandy found dead from reported drug overdose". ABC News (Australia) (Abc.net.au). 28 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.