FIFA say that organised criminal gangs are targeting around 50 national soccer leagues for potential match-fixing
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND (JANUARY 15, 2012) (REUTERS) - Organised criminal gangs are targeting around 50 national soccer leagues for possible match-fixing and any country is vulnerable regardless of its record on corruption, FIFA head of security Ralf Mutschke said on Tuesday (January 15).
"Well, yes about 2012 we were looking into twenty cases from all over the globe, and we had in addition, FIFA had in addition, about 230 cases of disciplinary actions which were handled on a national level and which were forwarded," he told Reuters TV at FIFA headquarters.
Match-fixing has become a huge concern for soccer's authorities in the last few years as criminal gambling rings pay players, referees or officials to manipulate matches and make enormous amounts of money by betting on the outcome.
Mutschke said match-fixers would sometimes approach players, referees or officials out of the blue and on other occasions, they would groom their victims over time.
"If we are talking about match manipulation conducted by organised crime it is purely done for betting purposes. Betting purposes, they fix a match and they bet in South East Asia huge amounts of money and gain profits from that. They are approaching in particular people who are on the pitch, which means players or referees, mainly by grooming over longer periods, following them, trying to asses their vulnerability, but they also do have lucky tries, what we call cold approaches, to confront a person with match manipulation if he is willing to accept or not," he said.
Mutschke said that in some cases national leagues and confederations had been infiltrated to the point where referees were able to boost their careers by taking part in manipulation. Another tactic by match-fixers was to organise international friendlies and change the referee at the last minute.
"What we do see as well is that on a club level, on an association level, that fake companies owned by match fixers are approaching them with fake ID's, fake websites, fake business cards and are trying to gain their credibility and their attention. Then they're coming in and organising international friendlies, and determine from a list they have, particular referees, who are bribed and who are manipulating the course of the match," he said.
Mutschke pointed out that all countries were vulnerable, not just those with a reputation for corruption, and that FIFA had set up a hotline for players and referees to report approaches and he wanted each of FIFA's 209 member associations to appoint integrity officers to collaborate.
"To eradicate organised crime, match fixing, it is a dream and it cannot be achieved. Therefore the goal for us is to reduce corruption within football, to reduce match manipulation in football. Therefore we initiated FIFA integrity initiative and the main goal is to strengthen the integrity of our members and to strengthen their defence power, if I would like to talk about football, to resist the approach by organised crime," Mutschke said.