Integrity in sport is the main theme of an international conference organised by FIFA and Interpol and being held this Thursday and Friday (17-18 January) in Rome. FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke will be one of the main speakers, along with Ralf Mutschke who is FIFA's Director of Security.
Before the conference, Mutschke made himself available to various media representatives to talk about his first seven months as FIFA Director of Security and outline his division's strategy regarding the integrity initiative.
Football is currently facing real threats in the form of corruption and match-fixing. Past cases and also current events have shown this to be a problem rife throughout the game.
"I had an informal meeting here in Zurich with someone who had been found guilty of match-fixing," Mutschke explained. "He looked me right in the face and said: 'Organised crime is getting away from its original criminal activities and moving into match-fixing, since there's little risk and lots to gain'."
Making sure that match-fixing does not take place is Mutschke and his team's primary task, and it is important that the entire FIFA community be involved in the fight against organised crime.
"This is my main aim and also my biggest challenge," said the 53-year-old former Interpol director. "We need to strengthen the football community in the fight against corruption and match-fixing."
One of the most important measures in this regard 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," Mutschke continued, explaining that in February, a whistle-blower hotline is being set up enabling anyone to write in by e-mail. This will give people who have suspicions the opportunity to contact FIFA anonymously, to enable the governing body to act on any tips it receives.
No suspicions regarding FIFA World Cup qualifiers
Another part of the overall concept is the integration of an early warning system (EWS) which has recently been set up within FIFA's security division.
"We monitor around 1,500 matches a year, including all FIFA competitions and international friendlies," said Mutschke. "At the moment about 50 national leagues outside of Europe are being targeted by organised crime figures in the betting market."
Qualifying matches for the world's greatest football tournament are also being monitored, and the FIFA director has some positive news to report. "World Cup qualifying matches are tough to fix as a general rule, since the World Cup is the biggest event for teams and above all players. It only comes round every four years and it's the one that they really want to take part in," he said.
"We're obviously still keeping a very close eye on the matches, but as yet there have been no suspicions of fixing. International friendlies on the other hand are much more susceptible to this kind of thing."
In the future, Mutschke's team is going to be further strengthened, both at the Home of FIFA and internationally, to make sure that they are even better armed in the struggle against match-fixing. A detective superintendent from the German Federal Criminal Office and a commissioner from the U.S. police authorities will be added to the staff in Zurich, whilst an additional security officer will be stationed in London.
Plenty of member countries have shown a real interest in working with FIFA on this matter and have already approached Mutschke with specific queries. FIFA will be using its Integrity Team (FIT) to provide intensive support to these countries and to take up the fight on the broadest possible scale against organised crime.
"My main aim is to set up a global network of integrity officers," Mutschke concluded. "The key to success is prevention, and we can only succeed if we work together."