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Corruption and Public Secrecy: An Ethnography of Football Match-Fixing

The topic of corruption has recently moved from the periphery to the centre of social scientific attention. Notwithstanding the increased interest, research into corruption has been empirically limited and under-theorized. This study addresses that gap by providing an ethnographic account of football match-fixing in the Czech Republic. By qualitatively analysing both primary and secondary data, this study examines match-fixing and corruption through the lens of the concept of public secrecy. Three different, narrowly intertwined forms of match-fixing are identified: direct corruption, mediated corruption and meta-corruption. By conceptualizing match-fixing as a public secrecy, the study explores how the publicly secret nature of match-fixing is normalized and how the match-fixing complex is reinforced by a compromising complicity of social actors who are both victims and principals. Although this study focuses on a sport-related example, it has both theoretical and empirical implications for a sociological understanding of corruption outside the sphere of sport.