Identifying, disrupting and preventing the infiltration of organized crime into the world’s most popular sport was the focus of a panel session organized by INTERPOL’s Integrity in Sport unit at the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Brasilia, Brazil from 7 to 10 November.
Focusing on match-fixing and irregular betting, panelists addressed the question of how to block the entry of illicit networks into football at all levels, from amateur local matches to major international competitions.
Coordinated as part of the INTERPOL-FIFA training, education and prevention initiative to combat match-fixing in football, the panel — moderated by veteran BBC sports broadcaster Rob Bonnet — also featured representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), FIFA Security and the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) from Afghanistan.
"The opportunity to share our views with anti-corruption experts has re-affirmed our belief that match-fixing and irregular betting in football is a growing problem which must be addressed by comprehensive training, education and prevention programmes, and improved partnership working between all the relevant stakeholders," said John Abbott, Chair of the INTERPOL Integrity in Sport Steering Group.
Addressing the four-day (7-10 November) conference, Mr. Abbott pointed to partnerships, information exchange, coordination, prevention strategies and pro-active approaches as the five key elements in designing a strategy to tackle corruption in sport. "We have to recognize this threat and be united in protecting football as a clean sport. But we cannot do it alone," said Ralf Mutschke, FIFA Director of Security.
By raising awareness of the problem, the workshop aimed to empower agents of change - ranging from fans to international regulatory bodies - to recognize the scope and scale of the organized criminal infiltration of sports and to take preventative action against it. "There are two sides to the coin: it is a problem for the sport, which needs to be dealt with administratively, but it is also a crime, and that needs to be dealt with by law enforcement," said UNODC Chief of Corruption and Economic Crime Branch Dimitri Vlassis.
"You cannot fight match-fixing with a notebook and a pen. As the criminals are going forward, we also have to go forward," concluded Drago Kos from Afghanistan’s Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee.