“How do criminals fix a football match? How do you recognise a fixed match? How do you avoid becoming a target of match-fixers? ”
These were just some of the questions raised at the first workshop organised by INTERPOL, in partnership with the Football Association of Finland and the Finnish Police, as part of its ten-year initiative with FIFA to tackle match-fixing and corruption in football.
Some 40 players, officials, police and government authorities took part in the two-day event in Helsinki in April, the first in a series which are aimed at raising awareness and understanding of corruption in football, the strategies used by criminals and how to recognise, resist and report match-fixing attempts. One other important aspect of these workshops is to identify good practice and areas for development.
Peter Lundstrom, the Finnish FA’s Head of Competitions, said: “I’m sure the workshop raised the common knowledge of integrity issues, and this is exactly what makes it easier to fight illegal betting problems because all stakeholders in the workshop made a commitment to improve their small part of actions on behalf of ‘the good guys’. At the workshop, we would have representatives for the sporting side, and at the same table you would have somebody from the police, prosecution services, ministry, foreign guests and the betting industry, and just by talking through case scenarios everybody would learn from each other.
“The workshop was a tremendous opportunity to spread the knowledge about integrity issues, within all sports and not just football, to stakeholders who normally would never otherwise get together at the same table. The workshop focused on very common examples and not just on high-profile cases that have been exposed, and thus the conversations became attached to our national challenges. As most participants were not professionals within the field of neither legal nor illegal betting, the enthusiasm to learn was tangible.”
The various role-playing exercises enabled participants to gain a different perspective on the complexities of the problem, and importantly what rules, laws and networks exist to provide support to men and women directly involved in football and for the officers investigating allegations of corruption.
Instructors and speakers from Finland, Italy and FIFA’s own Security Division provided an international viewpoint, reinforcing the need to address problems of corruption and match-fixing through transnational co-operation. Representatives from Hungary and Korea Republic also participated as observers.
Jouko Ikonen, a representative of the Finnish police, explained the match-fixing problem in the country: “Helsinki was an ideal place to launch this programme, because during recent years the we have identified match-fixing problems in Finland and started to fight back. More than a year ago, a Singaporean match-fixer was arrested and later convicted along with 11 players in Finland. That was a big enough case to make us realise how worldwide the problem is at the moment. During the investigation we found out that Finnish matches were only a small part of the big picture.
“It is always good and useful to receive new ideas and experiences how to tackle the problem. It was also important to meet and talk together with all parties about the phenomenon and effective actions against it. It gave us excellent possibilities to share information. I am sure that every participant has a common goal to tackle and prevent the match-fixing problem. Nobody can do it alone. Co-operation is the only way.”
FIFA Secretary-General, Jerome Valcke was quick to point out the importance of the FIFA-INTERPOL partnership in order to ensure fair play across all levels of the beautiful game.
“As a result of the huge profit associated with illegal gambling, of the vulnerability of players, and of the ease with which matches of all levels are accessible for betting on the internet, corrupting matches or their outcomes has become of interest to groups that do not care about the beauty of our sport. No region in the world is immune to the risk of one of its countries falling victim to corruption in football. It is for these reasons that one year ago, FIFA and INTERPOL entered into a ten-year partnership to tackle corruption in football more aggressively and effectively.
“The FIFA-INTERPOL initiative aims to develop and implement a global training, education and prevention programme with a focus on illegal betting and match-fixing. This workshop that has taken place in Finland is the very first in a long list to come, as FIFA is taking any cases of match-fixing in its member associations extremely seriously; hence our decision to also create a dedicated Security Division within our own organisation to investigate any information that might harm the integrity of our sport.”
Since its creation in 2011, INTERPOL’s dedicated Integrity in Sport unit, based at the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France has been developing a number of training, education and prevention strategies.
The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to test-run INTERPOL’s new e-learning training course, which is due to go live in June 2012.
With players and officials (referees) most often the target of criminals wanting to manipulate the outcome of a game, the online course has been designed with footballers in mind, focusing on the personal and professional risks of participating in any form of corruption.
Although primarily aimed at footballers, INTERPOL is encouraging all those involved in combating corruption in sport to complete the INTERPOL e-learning programme.
“I believe that the workshop was a success and that the work we performed will help both the participants and the Interpol/FIFA organisers in the process of improving its contents even further,” added Lundstrom. “I know for a fact that all participants made a huge personal leap forward in recognising the entire concept of match-fixing, and the ones in each participating organisation who will be working within these issues will often relate to facts and theories presented in the workshop.”
The workshops will continue throughout the year. Discussions are ongoing for the organisation, in the course of 2012, of different meetings: a Regional Kick-Off Awareness Workshop in Italy with the objective of bringing together a variety of representatives from European countries, a National Workshop in South Korea, a Regional workshop in the region CAF/COSAFA sub-region, a Regional Workshop in the region CONCACAF/UNCAF sub-region, a Regional Kick-Off Awareness Workshop in AFC region with the objective of bringing together a variety of representatives from Asian countries, and others.
For more information on the INTERPOL/FIFA initiative and on the activities covered by this project, please visit the dedicated webpage on the INTERPOL website (http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Corruption/Integrity-in-Sport) or contact the INTERPOL Integrity in Sport unit, email: firstname.lastname@example.org