FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke has spoken of the dangers of match-fixing at an international conference as members of the football and law enforcement worlds gathered, aiming to tackle the practice in a landmark coming together.
Some 200 delegates from 50 countries gathered in Rome to discuss the threats posed to football by match-fixing and ways to further improve its prevention and investigation. The conference, entitled ‘Match-fixing: The ugly side of the beautiful game’, is a significant step forward in the fight against match-manipulation, which creates billions in illegal betting across the globe.
Bringing Mr Valcke together with his counter-parts from Interpol and UEFA, Ronald K. Noble and Gianni Infantino, as well as Giancarlo Abete, President of the Italian Football Federation, the conference’s aim is to help the footballing and law enforcement worlds stand shoulder to shoulder in tackling match-fixing at the national, regional and international levels.
Delegates in attendance included officials from international organizations including FIFPro, Sportaccord, national football associations, national FA integrity officers, players and referee representatives, betting organizations, gambling regulatory authorities and law enforcement.
Responsibility to the game
“Today, almost 300 million people play football in the world. This extraordinary popularity gives FIFA responsibilities. One of FIFA’s statutory objectives is precisely to protect the integrity of the game. Therefore, the fight against match manipulation is a top priority for FIFA,” said Mr Valcke.
“We have to secure that we have appropriate rules in place, that everything we do is transparent, that our decisions benefit our sport and that those who do not play by the rules are sanctioned.
“But with the best will in the world, FIFA cannot fight and win the battle against corruption in football alone: involving all the parties that need to work together is the key to the battle against corruption in football.
“Our meeting here in Rome is a recognition to that reality. Only by joining together we can send out the powerful signal of immutable commitment, progress and success against organised crime,” Mr Valcke added.
FIFA have committed to a ten-year long cooperation with Interpol in a joint bid to fight the practice. The initiative will look to combat sports corruption through a combination of awareness and training programmes aimed at key individuals, alongside strategies to detect and counteract the methods being employed within organised crime.
“Match-fixing is about the money,” said INTERPOL Chief Mr Noble. “Illegal betting which drives match-fixing encompasses a market that is said to be in the range of hundreds of billions of Euros per year, with estimates that the large bookmakers have revenues on the same scale as the Coca-Cola company.
“Criminal organisations benefit from match-fixing both in the profits it promises and in its ability to launder their ill-gotten gains from other criminal activities. Match-fixing is clearly a many-headed dragon that we must slay with a coordinated national and international effort,” said Mr Noble, highlighting that this first European conference also brought together the Secretaries General of INTERPOL, FIFA and UEFA for the first time in history.
The sentiments were echo by Mr Infantino as he outlined UEFA’s contribution to assist eliminating match fixing. “We will continue to fight this cancer. With our continued programme of education to players, match officials and coaches, our sophisticated monitoring systems and our close links with law enforcement agencies and state authorities, under no circumstances will we surrender to match-fixers.”
Security Division begins path
In June, former Interpol director and senior manager at the German Federal Criminal Police Office, Ralf Mutschke was brought in as FIFA’s new Security Director and, speaking in a recent interview with FIFA.com, listed the prevention of manipulation of games as his highest priority. "Making sure that match-fixing does not take place is our primary task, and it is important that the entire FIFA community is involved in the fight against organised crime,” he said.
“One of the most important measures is the FIFA awareness programme, which includes holding information sessions ahead of all FIFA tournaments and making top officials for the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ more attuned to the phenomenon.
“Regional and national workshops are also held in all confederations to ensure a uniform and systematic approach. There is far more than that however. We want to demonstrate that FIFA, in conjunction with our partner Interpol, is really focusing on this. In February, a whistle-blower hotline is being set up enabling anyone to write in by e-mail."
In regards to the creation of Mutschke’s new security division, Valcke told the conference: “We want to continue along this path, we want to intensify our efforts and expand them. Football is part of our national culture, and our daily lives, it is our duty as the governing body, to have a zero tolerance policy and to protect the football community. We are determined to fulfill, and exceed, this most important of responsibilities.”
The conference comes under the auspices of INTERPOL’s Integrity in Sport unit, as part of the joint INTERPOL/FIFA Training, Education and Prevention initiative, and is in partnership with the Italian Ministry of the Interior and UEFA.
Prefect Antonio Manganelli, Head of the Italian National Police, said: “We are proud to host this first European conference on match fixing which brings together the key players from all sectors involved in this collective fight against the organized crime networks which seek to profit from the beautiful game. The Italian police remain committed to protecting football and all sport from corruption.”