"The threat of match-fixing in sport is a major one," declared FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in his opening speech at the Sports Funding, Sponsoring and Sports Betting Congress, organised by Early Warning System GmbH in Zurich.
"Match fixing shakes the very foundations of sport, namely fair play, respect and discipline. That's why FIFA employs a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any infringement of these values," continued Blatter. According to the FIFA President, football's world governing body cannot take on the illegal gambling trade on its own and therefore requires the support of governments and their respective law enforcement divisions.
Football has nonetheless taken major strides in the fight against match-fixing. "This conference will once again help to raise awareness of the problem and to ensure collaborative and comprehensive protection for the sport," said Blatter. "I'm convinced that football can survive and beat this plague."
Willi Lemke, Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport, subsequently spoke about the great importance of sport with regard to development and peace, as well as its central role in reaching their goals in the new millennium. "Sport will lose its significance if match-fixing robs it of the core values which make it so popular and unique. It turns sport into an economic plaything."
Hence it is all the more important for governments to develop rules and laws against match-fixing and to lend financial support to the fight against illegal sports betting. "The threat of match-fixing is being taken very seriously and we have to use all the powers at our disposal to fight it," added Lemke.
The Sports Funding, Sponsoring and Sports Betting Congress in Zurich welcomed numerous high-profile guests from various areas of sport and raised questions such as how much money sport can cope with and how the integrity of sport can be protected.
The unanimous opinion of the speakers at the congress, including former judge Professor Udo Steiner, was that sport is coming increasingly under threat from match-fixing and that regulations and measures must be put in place to combat this. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) believes match fixing is the biggest threat to world sport at present and estimates that around USD 140 billion of the yearly USD 350 billion turnover in the gambling industry is achieved through illegal bets.