FIFA’s Director of Security Ralf Mutschke has responded to Europol’s investigation into match-fixing by stressing that this worldwide issue cannot be solved by football in isolation.
“The news today from Europol follows a long investigation,” said Mutschke. “I have been very clear in saying that match-fixing and match manipulation is a global problem, and one that is not going to go away tomorrow. FIFA and the football community are committed to tackling this problem, but we will not succeed alone.
"The cooperation between law enforcement and sporting organisations needs to be strengthened. The support of law enforcement bodies, legal investigations, and ultimately tougher sanctions are required, as currently there is low risk and high gain potential for the fixers.”
Today in the Hague,* *Europol announced the results of the biggest-ever investigation into match-fixing in Europe in which 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals are suspected of being involved.
Investigators believe that as many as 380 matches across the Old Continent have been fixed by an Asia-based crime syndicate, including FIFA World Cup™ and UEFA European Championship qualifiers and several top football matches in European leagues. Overall, Europol claim match-fixing had taken place in 15 countries with 50 people arrested to date.
Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, said: "This is the work of a suspected organised crime syndicate based in Asia and operated with criminal networks around Europe.
"It is clear to us this is the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe. We have uncovered an extensive criminal network."
It is also time for governments to take the threat of match-fixing seriously and introduce appropriate sanctions as a deterrent, for while a player may be prepared to rish a ban for throwing a match, he will most likely not wish to risk a prison sentence.
With the extensive criminal network now uncovered, Mutschke now hopes that governments will show solidarity with the football family and deliver tougher custodial sentences.
"In football, a national association can sanction a member of the football family if they are found guilty of contravening the legal, football framework,” he continued. “FIFA’s Disciplinary Code provides the opportunity to extend those sanctions, and impose a life ban.
“But for people outside of football, currently the custodial sentences imposed are too weak, and offer little to deter someone from getting involved in match-fixing.
"FIFA requests that law enforcement bodies continue their engagement, and continue to assist FIFA in the global fight against match-manipulation and organised criminals, even if the investigations are considered complex."
In recent interviews, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter echoed Mutschke’s sentiments, saying: “We are working here together with the political authorities and also with INTERPOL. What is necessary is solidarity within the football community. Then, when players, coaches and referees are touched by these people they should immediately disclose it, acting as whistle-blowers. Only then can we intervene effectively.
“Outside the football family, it is also time for governments to take the threat of match-fixing seriously and introduce appropriate sanctions as a deterrent, for while a player may be prepared to rish a ban for throwing a match, he will most likely not wish to risk a prison sentence.
“We must lobby governments to introduce legislation of this kind, both nationally and across borders where possible, through countries reaching a common position on this problem.”