Interpol: Effective global legislation on match-fixing is unlikely
John Abbott, the chairman of Interpol’s joint steering group with FIFA, speaking at the Soccerex Global Convention 2014. Photo: Action Images / Andrew Boyers
10.09.2014By Steve Menary
Speaking at the Soccerex conference in Manchester on a panel titled ‘Fixing Football’s Dark Side’, Emmanuel Medeiros, the recently appointed chief executive of the European office at the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS), described match-fixing as a “deadly cancer for sport” and said that urgent action was needed because at least one European club had been taken over by a front company for match-fixers. Due to ongoing investigations, Medeiros could not reveal any more details but he called for a more unified approach to tackling the problem.
He said: “Sports betting industry is part of the solution not just part of the problem. Poor governance and poor regulation remain the problems. We urge governments to share their responsibility. It’s not acceptable, the lack of regulation. We have been calling for concrete robust regulation of the sports betting market. At the moment, it does not exist.”
John Abbott, the chairman of Interpol’s joint steering group with FIFA aimed at tackling match-fixing, was on the same panel. He supported the notion of a global legal pact but cast doubt international legislation could be achieved.
“Countries tend to be very protective of their sovereignty, especially when it comes to criminal law. I have some doubts about getting a super dooper global agreement that will keep everyone happy,” Abbot said.
“In most countries, there will be some legislation that can be used to tackle the problem but it’s not a very satisfactory situation. [Interpol] would encourage countries to put in the right powers, legislation and resources. Countries are often good at putting in better legislation, but then don’t put in the resources.”
A stronger approach is needed
Abbott argued that prevention was essential and suggested that players’ contracts include a clause relating to education on match-fixing that also prevented them passing on information about matches and players. Abbott added: “Football associations need to get real about prevention and the need to recognise, resist and report match-fixing appropriately. It should be in players’ contracts that they have had training. We need a stronger approach, rather than the current laissez fare one.”
Abbott argued that those successful convictions against match-fixing achieved so far are just the tip of the iceberg and that organised crime syndicates are involved in match-fixing in Asia, the Balkans, China, Italy and Russia.
“Criminal gangs have got involved because it’s an easy way to make money,” added Abbott.
He also revealed that allegations of criminal involvement are made in between 60 and 80 nations around the world every year and warned against ignoring the dangers of match-fixing in the women’s game. Abbott added: “The women’s game is not immune. We need to be alert at all times. Any type of match at any level [could be affected].”
A huge detrimental impact
The extent of the match-fixing problem was revealed by Mark Sutcliffe, the new chief executive officer at the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA). Sutcliffe told the audience how he received a call recently on the day that an Under-16 friendly tournament was being staged in Hong Kong.
“I was told that one team would lose 3-0. I contacted the enforcement agency, who told me that as the betting was not taking place in Hong Kong the game was not a priority. The match was clearly fixed,” Sutcliffe said.
Earlier this year, six players and three officials were arrested as the players walked down the tunnel after a first division match in Hong Kong. A new Hong Kong Premier League has been launched by the HKFA that includes stricter monitoring and agreements with the nine clubs involved.
The competition kicks off this Friday (September 12) but the match-fixing trial begins in a fortnight. This means, said Sutcliffe that despite blowing the whistle on match-fixing the issue will continue to hang over the sport in the former British colony, where crowds are as low as a thousand for top flight matches.
Sutcliffe said that with continued poor crowds and without income from sponsors deterred by the cloud of match-fixing that would affect the money available for the vital grass roots development of the sport.
“Although we blew the whistle this is having a huge detrimental impact,” said Sutcliffe.