KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING
— Not all this year’s big transfers were wrapped up by midnight on January 31. One of the most intriguing was not signed and sealed until February: this is the ‘deal’ which sees Chris Eaton quitting his anti-matchfix role at FIFA to sign on with the Qatar-based sports security outfit, ICSS.
The timing, from FIFA’s point of view, was not ideal. The ex-Interpol Australian has brought a high profile to football’s campaign against corruption out on the pitch, set up a significant worldwide network of investigators and shaken up more than a few complacent national associations and leagues.
From Eaton’s perspective, however, he knows this is a task which can never be completed and the attraction of the opportunity to paint his expertise across a wider canvas is logical.
Equally intriguing is the signal sent out that youthful ICSS is expanding its area of operations into a far more complex area, way beyond the comparatively structured, narrowed sphere of specific event security.
Not the least of Eaton’s challenges will be proving that an organisation which is only six months old has not bitten off more than it can chew – and doing so without the status of representing an international sports federation (unless ICSS is to be contracted, in due course, by the likes of FIFA and the IOC).
The privately-owned International Centre for Sport Security was created by Qatari Mohammed Hanzab. The genesis for its creation was a chance conversation in London with former Lord Stevens [Sir John Stevens, former commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police]. The product of that meeting was a realisation that no organisation existed for knowledge transfer of security systems from one sports events to another.
Hence ICSS has undertaken a major recruiting raid of leading specialist personnel in the relevant sectors. Clearly, Eaton will not be the last big signing.
One of the first, to fill the role of executive director, was Helmut Spahn.
The former German policeman, head of security for the 2006 World Cup and last year’s Women’s World Cup, considers Eaton’s arrival a perfect fit in terms of the ICSS mission.
Spahn said: “One of the major needs for sports events is that people must feel comfortable, safe and secure. They want to have good sporting entertainment but they must also believe in the result of the game. If people feel safe and secure but do not believe in the result of the game then you have a problem.
“Right from the beginning of our concept of the role of the centre, the credibility of sport was one of the issues.”
Eaton and Spahn’s paths crossed, not unnaturally, at a number of international conferences.
“We found there were various ideas on which we could work together,” said Spahn, “and, since Chris is highly-respected person in the field of combating matchfixing, the result is that he will join ICSS in May.
“He has a great network all over the world and great experience in this field. From our point of view, we are saving ourselves time by bringing in that knowledge.
“I think one of his biggest motivations was that, while he was working for FIFA on the problems of matchfixing in football, we are an international centre for sports security so Chris can bring his experience to bear in other fields of sports too.”
Spahn denied that the ‘swoop’ had created any problems between ICSS and FIFA.
He said: “We have been talking to FIFA and explained the situation and there has been no criticism of us from FIFA.
“It was the same situation with me and the German football federation. There were a lot of projects I had implemented for them and when I talked to my president he said: ‘But Helmut, there is no-one to replace you.’ So I said: ‘I will help you find another guy,’ which I did. In the same way, Chris will help FIFA to find his own replacement.”
Of course, FIFA could just do a deal with ICSS . . .
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