The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) organised a round-table conference in the Swiss town of Neuchatel on Wednesday to examine the issue of sports betting and match-fixing. The event produced a fruitful dialogue between numerous experts who outlined the problems to be faced and various potential solutions, and FIFA was there to contribute to the debate.
As the worrying stream of headlines has made abundantly clear, the world of sport is by no means free from cheats. The spectre of fixed matches has recently reared its head again in Italy and the ramifications of that inquiry could stretch far and wide – and it was against that background that the CIES invited a panel of experts to a round-table conference in Neuchatel on Wednesday to take a closer look at the subject. Marc Cavaliero, head of FIFA's Disciplinary and Governance department, was there to put forward the point of view of world football's governing body.
Joining Cavaliero at the event were a number of other officials from the sporting world and officials representing lottery organisations, as well as several active sporting figures. With both UEFA EURO 2012 and the London Olympics on the horizon this summer, everyone present outlined the threats to the integrity of sporting competitions.
As Denis Oswald, CIES Director and a professor at the University of Neuchatel, put it, "It's essential that sports officials continue to discuss in formal and informal contexts the fight against irregular and illegal betting, in addition to the manipulation of sports competitions. This problem is a serious matter for fairness in sport. The CIES and its partners are determined to make sure that the debate concerning betting and match-fixing continues in a public arena for the good of sport."
For his part, Cavaliero emphasised that "FIFA has put into place a huge number of measures to fight this scourge, in particular by increasing surveillance of competitions, collaborating with national and international policing bodies and also by focusing on prevention and the education, most notably, of players, referees, coaches and their entourage."
"The phenomenon is very difficult to control because the majority of bets are illicit (80 to 90 per cent of the total) and are beyond the reach of the legislation put in place in our countries," added Christophe De Kepper, Director General of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
According to Jean-Luc Moner-Banet, Director General of Swiss lottery organisation Loterie Romande, "Match-fixing has become just another activity for the mafia. For these criminal organisations, it's a way of laundering money and making more, which is not the case in more traditional forms of money laundering where there are always losses. Sport is just a prop for the mafia."
Despite the scale of the problem, the discussion brought up a number of potential solutions from all the participants, including UEFA's Chief Legal Counsel – and former general prosecutor of Neuchatel – Pierre Cornu, plus ex-international referee Michel Vautrot.
As Moner-Banet explained, for example, "We need to regulate by banning certain forms of side bets (the number of corners, throw-ins, yellow cards etc) and bets on friendlies and youth games." De Kepper then concluded the discussion by no doubt summing up the general feeling among all the contributors: "Until governments realise the gravity of the problem, we'll always be one or two steps behind."