FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter warned today of the dangers and risks facing football in the form of illegal gambling and explained FIFA's zero-tolerance approach with regard to protecting the integrity of the sport.
"The cooperation between sports associations and governments is of crucial importance," declared Marco Villiger, FIFA Director of Legal Affairs at the Sports Funding, Sponsoring, and Sports Betting Congress in Zurich later in the afternoon. He went on to explain that active measures must be taken in order to adequately detect and prevent match-fixing, a responsibility which led FIFA to establish its subsidiary company Early Warning System GmbH (EWS), which has monitored betting markets relating to FIFA competitions since 2007 and has since become increasingly involved with the world governing body.
EWS has already begun to observe betting patterns in various club competitions, as well as other sports. It was thanks to the system that FIFA recently became aware of two friendly matches in Turkey which were identified as suspicious, and both are now being thoroughly investigated.
"When a match has been fixed, it loses its soul before it even kicks off," said UEFA Secretary General Gianni Infantino. As a result, UEFA implemented its own Betting Fraud Detection System in 2008 which detects irregular betting patterns in club matches. Around 100 million bets are checked every day, with around 29,000 club matches covered since its inception.
The German Football League (DFL) also reacted to the Hoyzer refereeing scandal of 2005 by insisting all professional contracts contain an anti-corruption clause. The DFL also employs an ombudsman to act as a point of contact for all players, referees and officials. "Furthermore, we arrange workshops at the academies of all professional clubs to help educate young players on the dangers of illegal gambling," explained Christian Seifert, CEO of the DFL.
Swiss Defence and Sports Minister Ueli Maurer and former judge Professor Udo Steiner demanded concerted action from sports associations, betting companies and governments to combat the problem. Friedrich Stickler, President of European Lotteries and a former President of the Austrian FA, went as far as to say: "We can't solve the problem of illegal gambling on a national level. It's too complex. We need to engage the likes of Interpol."
The Congress continues tomorrow with an intensive seminar at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, where the prevention, control and sanctions relating to match-fixing will all be on the agenda.