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Interpol, Transparency International and the Council of Europe endorse the message that FIFPro has been preaching for years in the fight against match-fixing.

On the final day of the Don't Fix It closing conference, on Wednesday 4 June, the experts of these respected organisations acknowledged the importance of good information, the improvement of awareness, the need for good governance, adequate protection for whistle-blowers, and the right balance between zero tolerance and a case-by-case approach.

"Fighting match-fixing is complex, but it is not rocket science", said Harri Syväsalmi, Director of Sports Division in the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. As chairman of the Council of Europe Expert Group he was highly involved in the draft of the International Convention on Fight against the Manipulation of Sports Competitions. In September this year, the Council of Europe expects the 51 participating countries to sign this convention. Three months after signing, the countries can ratify the convention.

Collaboration is a must, continued Syväsalmi. “Together we are stronger. This is a battle you cannot win on your own”.

According to the Finnish expert, collaboration means that players must be involved in the implementation of the initiatives in the fight against match-fixing. “The players are part of the solution, the players are not the problem”.

Sylvia Schenk, Transparency International and lawyer, agreed: “Sport athletes are not specifically corrupt, not more than other people outside of sports. But athletes are exposed to big risks. That problem must be dealt with. It is the clubs and the associations that are responsible for the environment of the players. That’s why they must have an adequate risk management in place, to prevent putting the players at risk”.

Julie Norris, Interpol Programme Manager Integrity in Sport, mentioned Chelsea as an example. “I am reading the book of Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, and he is describing how he went to Chelsea. Upon arriving he introduced himself as a reporter from Singapore who wanted to talk with the players. Chelsea refused. Chelsea has a brand and it protects that brand. But Perumal can walk in at a lot of other clubs. Not all clubs protect their brand as carefully as Chelsea”.

Norris made use of this metaphor. People secure their houses against burglars. “You lock your door, or even put in an alarm system”. The realisation of the need to protect yourselves must also reach the clubs and the football associations. “You’ve got your game to protect”.

 

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Julie Norris, Harri Syvälsami and Sylvia Schenk

Good governance is a condition for ensuring that sport is run effectively and in accordance with its values. Clubs and football associations must, for example, minimise the risks of match-fixing: prompt payment of (decent) wages to players and treating players well, as normal employees, are two extremely important ways of doing this.

Reporting attempts at match-fixing is, of course, important in the fight against match-fixing, but there must be an accurate distinction made there, stated Schenk. “Reporting obligations must be defined in a very clear way. You cannot be asked to report every suspicion of manipulation. When are we talking of suspicion? Yet you can be asked to report any approach made. I think FIFPro has to play a role in developing a policy to define the reporting obligations”.

Norris: “People reported to have to know what to do with the report. People will only report if they see results of their reports”. 

Syväsalmi: “The recipient of the information must be reliable and must protect the whistle-blower”.

Schenk: “Whistle-blowing is about protecting the source. Even if the report is anonymous, the source can be disclosed by starting an investigation without taking the specific situation into account. Sometimes you cannot even investigate, because any action could put the source at risk. So the anonymous report must not go directly to the desk of the person who is running the investigation into match-fixing”.

Zero tolerance is a delicate concept, and it demands further definition. FIFPro is of the opinion that zero tolerance is not the remedy to match-fixing. FIFPro advocates a case-by-case approach to assess the level of involvement of a player. “There are always circumstances”, Tony Higgins explained. “We have stories about players who have had guns pointed at their heads...”

Schenk: “That’s perfectly correct. Zero tolerance means you have to take up every case and deal with it in an individual way. Zero tolerance does not mean that you have to be suspended for life for the first case of match-fixing. You don’t need to cut off the head of everyone who makes a mistake. You need zero tolerance to signal that you are taking match-fixing and corruption seriously, but you must use a case-by-case approach. To try to change behaviour by threatening is not the right approach to prevent match-fixing or corruption”.