THE INCREASING PREVALENCE OF CRIMINAL MANIPULATION OF FOOTBALL RESULTS
Criminal corruption of football competitions and contests, and of people having a function within football organisations, is presently subject to unprecedented levels of investigation and detection worldwide by both national authorities and the various governing bodies. No other measurable indicator of the global prevalence of this problem is actually necessary to confirm its international gravity.
On the available public evidence substantial criminal infiltration into many levels of football, from national to regional and on to completely international, is a manifest reality. This infiltration crosses national and regional boundaries and can be realistically described as endemic on a global level.
The primary purpose of criminal manipulation of football is to cheat gamblers and betting organisations by fixing the outcome of a match in advance to fraudulently win at betting. It is reliably estimated that the amount of money bet globally on football and therefore available for fraudulent theft is counted in the billions weekly – whether measured in dollars or euros – and most of this is transacted either digitally or in cash in real time. Most often in fact while a match is actually in play.
The primary reasons for this dramatic increase in criminal infiltration into football are:
1. The vast and unparalleled global popularity of football generally and European competitions specifically to both international fans and gamblers alike;
2. the enormous international upsurge in internet and other global communications-based betting, which now represents the vast majority of bets staked internationally on all football; and
3. A significant shift in economic liquidity to countries where gambling is tremendously popular (especially but certainly not exclusively China, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, the Philippines and Singapore).
The primary reasons that criminals feel comfortable manipulating and infiltrating football are threefold:
1. Most football organisations do not have either adequate statutes or effective practical defences and protections against corruption. Sometimes they lack both. Many football organisations choose to avoid responsibility for allegations of match manipulation by either ignoring them or deferring them to either governments or to each other within the global governance hierarchy. In effect few want to take the necessary integrated international actions, and fewer still want to pay for it;
2. International investigations and national prosecutions against criminals manipulating footgball and into illegal gambling operations that operate completely outside of regulation are poorly coordinated, especially at a global level. When such investigations are undertaken, they are commonly conducted in painstaking detail due to a focus on collecting evidence for national prosecutions and the seizure of assets to either justify or pay for using national police resources essentially on international crime. In fact such investigations are rarely if ever focused on regional and global prevention of the crimes themselves; and
3. Betting at a global level is poorly regulated, being subject to widely differing national regulations at best, and deliberate under-regulation at worst. There is also a large and completely uncontrolled illegal international betting market.
Given the serious international attacks on football today that are especially adverse to its integrity, it becomes the responsibility of football governance bodies to counter this by creating and maintaining an internal environment hostile to criminal infiltration and corruption, through adopting regulations and practices precisely designed for this purpose. Football must be, and must be unmistakably and publicly seen as clean!
Equally football governance bodies must be held responsible to educate and equip their administrators, players, referees and umpires with the knowledge, skills and tools to recognise and resist any suspicious behaviour that could lead to compromise, manipulation or corruption, and to oblige them to report these approaches or circumstances. All people in football must be, and must be clearly seen to be, well aware of and enthusiastically opposed to corruption.
Given the serious infiltration of organised crime into football, it is the collective responsibility of all governments to ensure that national, regional and even entirely global footbal bodies comply with minimum business standards, such a due diligence in financial procedures, and that they maintain and practice corruption-protection policies and procedures. Governments have an obligation to ensure football organisations protect their values for the contemporary and future benefit of civil society.
It is the responsibility of national governments to protect the most impressionable and vulnerable in their societies. Children the world over are particularly influenced by football and highly motivated to support and participate. International children and youth training camps and schools are known to attract criminals to groom for future corruption, and even more insidiously for human trafficking or physical abuse. Governments must protect their most vulnerable when delivered into an international environment purporting opportunity and trust, yet too frequently delivering the opposite.
As fraudulent betting at the international level is now the lifeblood of criminal match fixers, It is the collective responsibility of governments to harmoniously legislate, regulate and monitor betting internationally, not merely nationally or even regionally, with the clear purpose to inhibit corruption and manipulation in these markets. Governments must be, and must be clearly seen to be, active and determined to render betting clean.
It is the responsibility of police to routinely and actively investigate and internationally cooperate, with a primary focus on criminal disruption and crime prevention, not on prosecution and asset seizure. Police must be, and must be clearly seen to be, internationally organised, resourced and aggressive against criminals manipulating international football for betting fraud purposes.
It is the responsibility of betting organisations and markets to create and maintain their own aggressive, dissuasive internal environment against criminal infiltration and corruption, and to cooperate with football bodies and police by reporting suspicious betting patterns so that any corresponding behaviour in the field can be terminated during the match or that consequences can quickly follow the match. Betting businesses must be, and must be clearly seen to be, clean!
PROPOSED GLOBAL ACTIONS AND MEASURES
APPLY BUSINESS PRINCIPLES TO FOOTBALL: Given the considerable business value and financial attraction of football internationally today, basic business principles should be required of the controlling bodies in all their dealing, including for example, the use of due diligence, know your customer and fit and proper persons tests. Active practice of these basic business principles would have prevented many successful results manipulations in football over the recent past.
AD-HOC INTERNATIONAL TASK FORCES: The creation of international protocols and standards, templates and tools, to facilitate the creation and management of ad-hoc, intelligence-led multi-agency, multi-national international task forces under the control of participating nations would be the most effective non-permanent police counter measures to organised crime manipulating sport internationally. Such temporary task forces could be formed to target, disrupt and deter for instance, a specific criminal organisation identified as involved and internationally active in match fixing and corruption.
A GLOBAL FUND: The creation of a global fund, donor managed, to provide operational financing together with access to communications and database support, possibly through INTERPOL, especially to support temporary, ad-hoc international investigative task forces.
A GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE BODY: While there is little or no international support for a WADA type global agency in the area of sport integrity generally, including football, there is support for an intelligence collecting, analysing and information sharing multi-agency global body tasked to provide timely advice to governments, police and sport bodies, and to provide direct support to any ad-hoc international investigative task forces.
Chris Eaton joined the ICSS in 2012 as Director of Sport Integrity. Previously he was FIFA’s Head of Security.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.