ZURICH: World federation FIFA is promising to protect any witnesses – in particular, players – who report match-fixing attempts by organised crime.
Security director Chris Eaton confirmed: “Players are living in fear in many countries. If they come forward and have valuable information then they will be protected.”
Eaton said FIFA has “anecdotal evidence” that players had been killed by crime syndicates but appealed for footballers, referees and administrators to report any attempts to influence them during a year-long attack on the threat to the game’s credibility.
A hotline and website, run independently of FIFA, will offer whistleblowers help in 180 languages and operate from February 1 until the end of the year.
FIFA will also offer a three-month amnesty to anyone reporting his or her own involvement in matchfixing .
FIFA has been encouraged by the example of Italian defender Simone Farina, who informed law enforcement authorities that he was offered $255,000 last year to help fix a second-tier match involving his club Gubbio.
“He resisted and rejected a corrupting offer, but more importantly he reported it,” Eaton said.
Farina’s example was hailed at FIFA Gala on Monday wehn he has been appointed a FIFA fair play ambassador.
Eaton and his team based in London, Colombia, Malaysia and Jordan visited 60 countries last year in tracking cases linked to southeast Asian fixers and illegal gambling operations.
FIFA estimates that fixers profit annually by between $5bn and $15bn from manipulating matches across all sports, which attract $500bn in bets.
One example of a breakthrough was seen last February when Singaporean businessman Wilson Perumal was arrested in Finland, where he fixed league matches. A double-header of international exhibitions played in neutral Antalya, Turkey, exposed a model of fixing where corrupt referees awarded dubious penalties to fulfill bets on how many goals would be scored.
Perumal was handed a two-year prison sentence. He had promised to pay one unidentified official $100,000, with a promise of $500,000 from future matches.
In emails, Perumal questioned how FIFA could stop match-fixing, saying: “If the parent body is corrupt, how is it going to eradicate corruption in football?”