International sports integrity experts from academia, law enforcement and international organizations are participating in the inaugural INTERPOL Global Academic Experts Meeting for Integrity in Sport to consider issues surrounding match-fixing and how to combat corruption in football through education.
Organized by INTERPOL’s Integrity in Sport programme, the two-day meeting (28-29 November) brings together some 50 experts from across the world who will determine how academia can play a role in developing and implementing educational lines of study, training modules and courses, including certification procedures, to prevent match-fixing.
Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Masagos Zulkifli, described the meeting in his opening remarks as ‘an excellent example of concerted effort against the evolving transnational security threat of corruption and fraud in the sports industry’.
“As corruption in sports and match fixing is a global phenomenon, the response must be global, holistic and proactive. The response must involve different stakeholders at the national and international level. Developing a strong and united front with our partners and other stakeholders is critical to our successful efforts against transnational crime,” added Singapore’s Senior Minister of State.
With the illegal gambling market estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of Euros a year, INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said, “Match-fixing is a significant cash-cow for criminal syndicates which engage in bribery, threats, and extortion. Careers are destroyed, lives are ruined. The credibility, and as a result the financial viability, of professional sports is also eroded.”
“To add to the damage, criminal organizations use betting markets to launder money from their other illegal activities, and also use the proceeds of match-fixing and illegal gambling to finance criminal activities such as drug trafficking, counterfeiting and trafficking in illicit goods.”
“The education of those likely to be targeted by match-fixers must therefore be an ongoing and lifelong process that becomes an integral part of the worldview of the players, referees and coaches who receive it,” concluded Secretary General Noble.
Simone Farina, the former Italian football defender who in November 2011 rejected a match-fixing offer and reported the attempted bribe to the police said: “Cheating is against everything I have learned and experienced as a player, such as fair play and respect for team members as well as opponents, but our focus cannot be limited to professionals. Prevention starts with tomorrow’s athletes – children.”
Working with the INTERPOL Integrity in Sports programme and as the FIFA Ambassador for Fair Play, Mr Farina also emphasized that players needed to know that if they rejected match-fixing offers there would be a network that includes INTERPOL, national sporting federations and FIFA to support them, as well as in his case clubs such as Aston Villa where he is currently a coach.
Between May and July of this year, Operation SOGA IV coordinated by INTERPOL targeted illegal soccer gambling networks across Asia and led to nearly 300 arrests and more than 200 raids on illegal gambling dens estimated to have handled around USD 85 million worth of bets.
In May 2011 INTERPOL entered into a 10 year initiative with FIFA to develop and implement a global training, education and prevention programme to better tackle corruption in football.