Football should be exciting, fun and honest. Match-fixing destroys this. It ruins the enjoyment of millions of people who visit stadiums or watch football on TV, and it can ruin careers and undermine the integrity of sport. That’s why preventing match-fixing is important and why Transparency International joined the German Football League (DFL) and the Association of European Football Leagues (EPFL) for Staying on Side, a project that aimed at preventing match-fixing through education and prevention measures.
The project, supported by the European Commission, targeted different groups such as young players, professionals and match officials. We wanted to raise awareness about the dangers of match-fixing and pilot educational materials on how to prevent it.
What we did
The project partnered EPFL football leagues in Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom with Transparency International’s chapters in those countries. In Lithuania, our chapter cooperated with football and basketball federations. Representatives from leagues in Norway, Poland, France and Russia also participated.
There were 46 events in the project countries. More than 1,085 football players, coaches, referees or sports officials received training about match-fixing, and we trained more than 200 people on how to give such sessions in the future.
During the course of the project there were:
- six training session for coaches of Under 16 to Under 19 age groups at all 52 German club youth academies and one workshop for heads of youth academies
- trainings at 18 Super League club academies in Greece for Under 17 to Under 20 players, one workshop for football coaches and one workshop for sport university students
- three trainings at Lega B clubs in Italy (Palermo, Brescia, Trapani)
- trainings at one professional basketball club and five football clubs in Lithuania
What we learned
European Football takes match-fixing seriously. Representatives of the national associations (UEFA), the leagues (EPFL), the clubs (ECA), and the players (FIFPro Division Europe), unanimously adopted a joint position paper, which includes a concrete action plan to protect the integrity of football and fight match-fixing.
The European football family has joined forces to tackle the threat of match-fixing, recognising the risk of match-fixing in European football as a global threat and a challenge for the sport. The Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions – which will be ratified later this year – will mandate systematic education at all levels of football.
Players and officials welcome the publication and use of educational materials as part of a comprehensive programme to raise awareness about match-fixing. For example, young players surveyed in Greece after the training sessions said they felt better prepared to protect themselves and their careers from match-fixing.
But these sessions are not one-off options. They need to be embedded in prevention programmes and repeated regularly to all groups at all age levels.
Blowing the whistle on match-fixing
There also needs to be an agreed approach to facilitating whistleblowing through appropriate and secure channels so that when people get into trouble they have somewhere safe and secure to report their suspicions and problems.
In 2013 the German Football League appointed a former football referee and practising lawyer to the position of ombudsman. He is an independent expert. In 2014 the Scottish Football Association, in collaboration with the Scottish Players Association and the Coaches and Managers Association, introduced a 24/7 whistleblower Integrity Hotline run by an independent organisation under the banner Keep it Clean. Lega B in Italy is also discussing the introduction of an ombudsman system.
Transparency International believes there are five key parts to a successful whistleblower system to help prevent match-fixing:
- Easy access and free of charge
- Secure and confidential
- Well-advertised with guaranteed follow-up to the disclosure
- The system is part of a prevention programme
The project brought together experts to discuss the current situation in the fight against match-fixing and how to communicate the importance of education and prevention.
We conducted research surveys in Italy, Portugal and Lithuania, which came up with recommendations for the prevention of match-fixing specific to those countries. Transparency International Lithuania hosted workshops for the media to explain the complexities of match-fixing and why prevention and education are necessary. It researched the experiences of both basketball players and football players with match-fixing. You can read the results here.
In Portugal, our chapter worked with the association of football referees to investigate the levels of understanding of match-fixing in Portugal. In the UK, working with the Premier League, the Football League, the Football Association and the Scottish Professional Football League, we developed a training manual to highlight the risks of match-fixing for clubs.
- Staying on Side: How to Stop Match-fixing, a resource guide to the materials developed during the project is available on this site in English. Versions in Greek, Italian, Lithuanian and Portuguese will come out soon.
- Training and education materials are available in German. English, Greek, Italian and Lithuanian versions will be available shortly. The project in Greece also produced an e-learning tool and training manual.
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