Football leaders from southern Africa described FIFA’s Integrity in Sport workshop in Johannesburg at the weekend, which was conducted in co-operation with INTERPOL, as a “wonderful opportunity to learn”.
Eight football associations from the region spent two productive days discussing methods of tackling match fixing and corruption in football, resolving at the end to strengthen their preventative measures and engage governments to enact better legislation to deal with the issues.
“We have had a wonderful opportunity to learn about things that could have a major impact on our associations, but which we might not have had too much knowledge about in the past,” said South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani.
FIFA’s delegation, headed by new director of security Ralf Mutschke and including both legal and sports betting experts, provided insight into an issue which threatens the sanctity of the game. Mutschke said match fixing was a much bigger problem than previously thought and its tentacles had spread worldwide.
INTERPOL, who last year entered into a long-standing co-operation agreement with FIFA to help educate member associations about the dangers of match fixing and other corrupt practices in sport, also provided expert insights into the threats to the game and how best to deal with them.
Their delegation was headed by Michaela Ragg, assistant director, who heads a newly established Integrity in Sport division. The workshop explored ways to train and educate officials about the dangers as well as setting out ways to develop better governance and practices.
Top football leaders from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe all resolved to return home to revisit their structures and to also engage their national authorities to ensure that criminals have little opportunity to take advantage in their respective territories.
The modus operandi of criminals and the magnitude of the sports betting industry was laid bare for participants. “We certainly had no idea of the depth of the potential dangers and how vigilant we must be,” added Adam Mthethwa, president of the Football Association of Swaziland.
Importance of information
Mutschke told delegates FIFA was keen to get as much help and co-operation as possible in the fight against corruption. He said: “We want to inform and raise awareness in all of our 209 member associations and tell them about the problem of match fixing and corruption.”
FIFA’s director of security said he was delighted with the level of interest from participants and the lively debate. “This workshop was very well received,” he added. Alongside football leaders, each country also brought along senior police officials to join the debate.
“One of the objectives of this workshop is to bring together key stakeholders and to have an opportunity to speak with each other about the problems. We can then also identify good practices. It is good to share as much information as we can,” said Ragg.
FIFA has previously held similar workshops in Finland and Guatemala recently and plan several more in the coming months.
“This was most interesting for our region to learn about the depth of the dangers of match fixing,” added Feizal Sidat, president of the Mozambican Football Federation. “We have resolved in our region to get together and try and work as closely as we can to ensure we share as much information as possible and we can fight against the possibility of corruption together.”