PtG Article 29.03.2012

Eaton reveals changes in FIFA's programme against match-fixing

In a panel on Betting in Football at the Soccerex conference in Manchester, UK, FIFA's head of security, Chris Eaton, revealed that FIFA has put its whistle-blowing and amnesty programme on hold. Steve Menary reports from the conference.

FIFA’s whistle-blowing and amnesty programme has been put on hold by President Sepp Blatter. The news was revealed by FIFA’s head of security Chris Eaton, who said that the world body would launch a global whistle-blowing service for players involved in match-fixing that would also offer an amnesty later this year.

“FIFA wants to put this into the whole of governance, rather than just match-fixing. It will proceed later year but in a different context,” said Eaton speaking at the Soccerex conference in Manchester on a panel on Betting in Football, where he called for greater political involvement to solve a problem dogging the game.

Eaton insisted that though the problem was global, the problem was caused by regulated and unregulated gambling South East Asia, where he said that FIFA had been investigating a group operating out of Singapore and Malaysia for the past decade. Responding to suggestions from another panellist, Russ Wiseman head of media at gambling group Sportingbet that there was regulation in this region out of the Philippines, Eaton said: “There is pretty casual regulation out of Manila.”

“We need to address this not just at a European level; it’s global and the key issue is criminality. Sport doesn’t have the wherewithal to address transnational crime. Governments need to be involved but we don’t need to regulate gambling out of existence.”

Eaton also insisted that players were not the main target for criminals looking to fix matches and went on to say: “We have to be careful not to portray the players as the victim. You make a conscious decision to take a bribe and that’s illegal.

“The first target is the officials. You need to corrupt a number of players to achieve a result of certainty but you don’t need to corrupt that many officials. [The next target] is the administrators, who decide what games are played and who the referees are. In some countries, criminals have carte blanche access to players and that can be stopped by administrators.”

Eaton said that “economic weakness was the cheapest way to take advantage” and this was backed up earlier in the same session by Theo van Seggelen, general secretary of the players’ union FIFPRO, who said that that 50% of professional players do not even have a contract.

“These players are much more interested in match-fixing. So are those who are forced to train alone or subject to violence [from fans],” said van Seggelen. “Players who received their salary on time are not so interested.

“There is too much focus on players. Even though players are involved, it doesn’t start with players. We have to look at everyone with clubs, including presidents. I would even advise that UEFA should look at its own integrity officers.”

Van Seggelen suggested referees should only be appointed one or two days before a game, but challenged Eaton’s assertion that players would be willing to come forward.

The FIFPRO secretary added: “Players are too afraid to phone a national association. They don’t know what to do.

“First of all they know they will be suspended immediately. Too often, they do not even know how to approach the president of their own club. They have to have someone they have confidence in.”

Eaton, who will soon leave FIFA for a job at the International Centre for Sports Security, responded that players would come forward if they saw action being taken, saying: “I don’t believe there is a reluctance in people of goodwill to talk about this, they want to see something done.”