ZURICH: FIFA has responded to Europol’s co-ordination of the European police investigation into football matchfixing by stressing that a worldwide attack on the credibility of football could not be solved by the game alone writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
“I have been very clear in saying that match-fixing and match manipulation is a global problem, and one that is not going to go away tomorrow,” said director of security Ralf Mutschke.
“FIFA and the football community are committed to tackling this problem, but we will not succeed alone.
“The cooperation between law enforcement and sporting organisations needs to be strengthened. The support of law enforcement bodies, legal investigations, and ultimately tougher sanctions are required, as currently there is low risk and high gain potential for the fixers.”
Europol’s summary of the most comprehensive investigation into match-fixing inEuropereported suspicions concerning 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals.
As many as 380 matches were believd to have been fixed by an Asia-based crime syndicate, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, two Champions League matches and several top matches in European leagues.
Overall, Europol claim match-fixing had taken place in 15 countries with 50 people arrested to date.
Mutschke hoped that the ‘shock and awe’ effect of the Europol statistics would encourage governments and the courts to support football and enable and deliver tougher custodial sentences.
He said: “In football, a national association can sanction a member of the football family if they are found guilty of contravening the legal, football framework. FIFA’s Disciplinary Code provides the opportunity to extend those sanctions, and impose a life ban.
“But for people outside of football, currently the custodial sentences imposed are too weak, and offer little to deter someone from getting involved in match-fixing.
“FIFA requests that law enforcement bodies continue their engagement, and continue to assist FIFA in the global fight against match-manipulation and organised criminals, even if the investigations are considered complex.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, foreshadowing Mutschke’s comments, noted recently how the organisation was working together with both political authorities and Interpol.
Blatter said: “What is necessary is solidarity within the football community. Then, when players, coaches and referees are touched by these people they should immediately disclose it, acting as whistle-blowers. Only then can we intervene effectively.
“Outside the football family, it is also time for governments to take the threat of match-fixing seriously and introduce appropriate sanctions as a deterrent, for while a player may be prepared to rish a ban for throwing a match, he will most likely not wish to risk a prison sentence.
“We must lobby governments to introduce legislation of this kind, both nationally and across borders where possible, through countries reaching a common position on this problem.”
FIFA’s ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia is launching a confidential anti-corruption hotline.
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