One year into his role as FIFA’s Head of Security, Chris Eaton spoke to FIFA.com about the scale of match-fixing across the globe, the progress being made in FIFA’s fight against it and its targets.
What is the mission of the FIFA security department?
After the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, we developed a programme of investigation support to combat match-fixing and infiltration into FIFA of criminals. And of course FIFA extends itself to [member] associations, so infiltration in associations too. In the last 12 months, we have developed an investigative system to support police and other investigative and prosecutorial organisations in developing evidence to prosecute people for involvement in match-fixing. Match-fixing can and does impact on qualifiers for FIFA competitions, and could impact on the global events themselves. As such, it undermines the overall integrity of our competitions. However, the infiltration of serious criminals into our associations and football generally is the most pressing issue. Organised crime has an interest in match-fixing because football generates an enormous gambling interest. Over 90 per cent of sport-related gambling in south-east Asia is on football matches, particularly international contests. A lot of people think of FIFA as a wealthy organisation. But it’s nowhere near as wealthy as the gambling organisations and bookmakers of the world who are feeding off football and from whom FIFA gets no benefit, has no access and no say. FIFA is not against bookmaking or gambling, but as unintended victims, we are encouraging governments collectively to make some sort of control mechanism over the unregulated gambling institutions, particularly in south-east Asia, where the amount of unregulated gambling dwarves regulated gambling. An Italian investigation into match-fixing in that country is now over a year old, and up to two billion euros has been identified as being the likely criminal income to two major criminal organisations, the Camorra and the Mafia. And remember, this is digital money. So there is no border transfer and no risk associated with importation, product problems or massive amounts of people you have to corrupt. So, up until now it has been low risk and high profits for them.
How hard is it to find out about these things?
The greatest enemy is naivety, in that people think, ‘This is the wonderful game, who would try to take advantage of this beautiful game?’ Well, the answer is that there are lots of ways to take advantage, and one of them is through match-fixing. Our most important task is to prevent match-fixing, so we are creating a hostile environment for match-fixers to make them realise we will expose them, name them, and make them subject to investigation somewhere in the world. One of the biggest risks is the World Cup qualifiers, particularly where competing teams do not believe they have a real chance of getting to the World Cup itself.
I have no doubt that we will. I am yet to meet a truly smart criminal. There are many far smarter people in the administration of FIFA for instance.
How do you get that kind of information and insight?
What we’re doing now is developing sources both in criminal organisations and football that will advise us. The FIFA security department is a small department that by this definition will rely on detailed partnerships in the law-enforcement field. We also need to engage associations and confederations into more of a matrix arrangement. For example, we have had a joint anti-match-fixing task force operating out of Kuala Lumpur since 1 December. There are two employees from the AFC and one of ours - a specialist investigator - and together they’ll be focusing on match-fixing and anti-corruption in south-east Asia. Another investigator is operating out of Colombia, working on the Americas and Central America. We have one Arabic-speaking investigator working out of Jordan on the Middle East and Africa, and we have a global investigations co-ordinator who operates out of the UK, monitoring Africa and Europe. This is about international - transcontinental in fact - organised crime. We see the footprints of Singaporean criminals throughout Europe, Africa and Central America. Therefore it’s very difficult for national police organisations to investigate such a phenomenon. But I think the progress we have seen this year is a good sign that we will defeat the match-fixers, and I have no doubt that we will.
Do you need a kind of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) for match-fixing?
I don’t believe we need a WADA. What we need is an independent investigative ability across sports. WADA is designed to deal with cheats who ‘cheat to win’. We’re talking about criminals who ‘corrupt to lose’. You certainly need a match-fixing code. The best place to control the ethics of any sport is where it’s played – at the club level and the federation level and in the hearts and minds of all participants.
Are you confident match-fixing can be beaten?
Absolutely! I’ve been involved in criminal investigations for 40 years and on an international level with Interpol for 12 years. I am yet to meet a truly smart criminal. There are many far smarter people in the administration of FIFA for instance. There is certainly a need to address the issue of economic stability and vulnerability for players and referees. We have examples of players being intimidated and possible examples of players being killed as a result of their decision not to co-operate with criminals. In 2012, players, officials and even administrators will have a place to go - even anonymously - to tell their story, and that’s with the commencement of the amnesty, rewards and hotline programme. There will be a website, telephone number and a dedicated email-address – in all languages. We will do everything that will suit the person who wants to say something. We’ll consider people who come to us for either a reward or amnesty. Some players have been unfairly compromised by their team-mates or families or within their clubs, and I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be considered for retraining and rehabilitation and allowed back into football. We want people in football to tell us the truth before we find out the truth - a sort of talk-before-you-are-caught maxim.
Can you put a figure on the scale of the match-fixing problem?
It’s very difficult. What is possible is to measure the scale of the profit. The Italian regulator, for example, can see every bet laid on sport. 4.2 billion Euros is gambled on sport in Italy every year, of which 92 per cent is on football. The Italian registered gambling institutions think they transact 30 per cent of the reality. So 70 per cent goes through unregulated and unregistered bookmakers, which therefore makes gambling on football around 12 billion a year in Italy. And that’s only one European country. We estimate that it’s between 300 and 500 billion a year gambled overall on sport across the globe, which of course includes horse racing, cricket, football and other sports.
Is the Interpol education programme up and running?
It will formally commence this year, and will be present at the first international FIFA competition for 2012, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. They will talk to players and officials. It’s about football waking up and resisting - it’s time for football to fight back against match-fixers.
What’s been the most encouraging or frustrating part of your job so far?
I’m very heartened by the growing awareness of match-fixing in the football community. I can feel that players want to get this out in the open. There are players who’ve been victims, players I’ve spoken to, who’ve played one game for their nation, been told by their team-mates to fix this match, and having resisted this, they’ve never played for their country again. There have been some awful examples of penalties players have paid for their honesty. Two players from Korea Republic committed suicide because of the shame of match-fixing allegations. The victims are the players, the coaches and administrators, when they’re corrupted in a sport built on teamship and fair play. When you compromise those high ideals, shame quickly follows. We must give them both support and protection.
How can you do that?
I can’t spend my life talking to individual police organisations. We need to escalate the drive for solutions to the global level, for instance the United Nations, or to INTERPOL and other collegiate international organisations that have a remit they can apply to our problem. And first and foremost, we have to measure the size of the problem, which is in part what INTERPOL are assessing now. We never had so many national investigations running concurrently as we have today, with hundreds of players in prison and administrators under investigation. If that’s not the cry for us to do something, then there’ll never be one. There are up to 50 active national investigations - one quarter of FIFA’s member associations. That’s frightening. Let’s do something about it. Let’s fight back.