Journalist and Researcher
Preventing match-fixing through better governance and stopping vulnerable games getting on betting markets was covered at a conference at the headquarters of international players union FIFPRO in Amsterdam.
The event, which marked the end of a three year-Erasmus+ project looking at fixing in club friendlies, was attended by 90 people including more than 50 people in person.
Joachim Walltin, General Secretary, FIFPRO’s European division, was joined online by Professor Nicos Kartakoullis, President of the Council at University of Nicosia, which led the Erasmus+ project to open the event.
The Greek government has agreed to use FIFPRO’s anonymous reporting app, the Red Button, for more than 40 sports and George Mavrotas, the Greek Secretary General of Sport, joined online from Brussels to make the announcement.
The first panel addressed the importance of good governance in preventing match fixing with KNVB Jan-Peter Dogge explaining how Dutch football went about this including the Know Your Owner test to vet prospective cub owners.
Former PFA Scotland president Tony Higgins expertly moderated the panel online with Chiel Warners from the Dutch National Platform joining Dogge in attendance and relating his experiences in the links between governance and fixing.
Guy Reninebergh from Belgium’s National Platform gave two examples on the role of transparency in two cases in Belgian football, while former UEFA head of governance & Compliance Alex Phillips explained how confederations have different approaches with one unnamed confederation tackling just three cases a year as a policy.
Lack of regulations and interest from betting and data companies leaves club friendlies wide open to fixing and this was illustrated through the results of the Erasmus+ project by manager Steve Menary, who showed the audience how these games get onto betting markets.
Former Maltese U21 international Samir Ali provided a poignant tale from the players perspective as he explained how he was banned for two years because he did not immediately report an approach by fixers – despite then going on to give vital evidence that led to convictions.
In a panel chaired by Swansea University’s Andy Harvey, who worked on FIFPRO’s Black Book, the conditions that led to players being coerced and pressured into fixing were aired.
Serbian president Mirko Poledica provided video evidence of a president of a top flight club threatening a player. Shortly after this evidence was made public in Serbia, the club president in question phoned Poledica’s sister and suggested that he stop.
The importance of the Red Button in enabling players to anonymously report approaches was explained by FIFPRO’s Frederique WInia.
After lunch, the role of data in both alerting authorities was covered and Khalid Ali, chief executive of the International Betting Integrity Association, explained how bookmakers aid in the fight against match fixing. Simon Cullis, senior manager for betting & performance integrity at STATS Perform explained how a monitoring report is put together.
UEFA intelligence analyst Angela Celestino detailed the European confederation’s process for tackling suspicious matches. The panel finished with a question and answer session led by FIFPRO’s head of legal Roy Vermeer and the union’s senior legal counsel Alexandra Gomez-Bruinewoud challenging the validity of convicting players of fixing based solely on betting reports and match videos.
After a screening of the documentary Fixed: The Movie, which detailed the infamous ‘international’ between Bahrain and a fake Togo team put together by match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, one of the film’s producers Jeff Reymond joined the final panel to address the challenges of prosecuting match-fixing.
Reymond moved away form football to detail the inability from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to address a highly suspicious World Cup qualifier in 2017, when Albania list 37-111 to the Netherlands.
A member of the French National Platform, Reymond contacted FIBA four years ago to point out the unlikelihood of the final scoreline, particularly as Albania were winning 16-14 after the first quarter.
Back on football, FIFA’s head of integrity Ennio Boloventura – stuck in Switzerland due to the new quarantine rules – provided an online out of the world body’s process for dealing with suspected match-fixing and said that FIFA could step in if national federations were unable to resolve issues.
Interpol’s Claudio Marinelli recounted the challenges facing the match fixing task force on a panel chaired by Belgium’s vice federal prosecutor Eric Bisschop, who brought the conference to a close with a list of subjects still to tackle.
Copyright © Steve Menary 2022
This text was previously published on the Football Collective blog,
and is reprinted with kind permission by the author.