Tackling football match-fixing: prevention as cure

Tackling football match-fixing: prevention as cure

Everyone recognises that match-fixing is a great danger to the future of football. It is the uncertainty of outcome that makes games exciting; if people think most matches are fixed they will lose interest. This would be bad for football and bad for society. Besides offering great entertainment, football can help teach some of life’s most important lessons, especially to young people – but only if it is true to the core values of fair play.

That’s why it is so important to prevent match-fixing and why Transparency International has teamed up with the German Football League (DFL) and the Association of European Football Leagues (EPFL) to develop a pilot prevention and education programme. Called Staying on Side, the aim of the project is to develop materials that can be used by football leagues across Europe to address all target groups including young players, professionals and match officials

The project is part of a European Commission programme to fund initiatives to raise awareness about the problem within both the sports movement and the public.

In the past decade, the exponential growth of the global betting market, which is estimated to be worth more than US$700 billion annually, has increased the danger of match-fixing. Gambling has become a low-risk way for organised crime to both make and launder money. This makes the people involved in football, including players, match officials and clubs, vulnerable to advances by criminals.

Preventing match-fixing is something that everyone in football can and should support. It has to be a concerted effort among public authorities, federations, leagues, clubs, officials, players, referees, fans, sponsors and betting operators.

Together against match-fixing

In our experience as an anti-corruption organisation, we believe that prevention through education and awareness-raising is critical to safeguard against corruption. That’s why we advocate anti-corruption programmes in both the public and private sectors.

Football presents a different setting but a similar goal. If people understand the risks and dangers of match-fixing, and are provided with the support they need to address them, they will be better prepared to say no to those who might try to bribe and coerce them into fixing matches.

In 2010 the DFL and the German Football Association (DFB), the German Health Agency and the Professional Footballs Player Union, with support of Transparency International Germany, developed an education programme, Together against match-fixing, that is now being piloted in German football clubs.

The initial target audiences are young players and coaches. They take part in hour-long sessions where they receive background information about how match-fixing and gambling works. Players, for example, are sometimes unaware that passing on information about injuries and team line-ups is not allowed and is considered inside information. The sessions also discuss what are called “dilemma cases” that illustrate the ethical challenges that people might face in real world situations, many of which involve gambling.

In parallel with the education programme, the DFL and the DFB introduced the role of an Ombudsman for the German football leagues. The German ombudsman is a lawyer who was also a youth football coach. He provides a secure and independent avenue for anyone involved in football to seek help. He also participates in the classroom training sessions so the players also get to meet him.

Codes of Conduct

One tool to help remind all involved of the dangers of match-fixing is a code of conduct. These are common in business and the public sector. Most sports, too, have written codes of conduct that bind participants, and most players are obliged to sign such a code as part of their contracts. The key is to ensure they are implemented. Education and prevention programmes remind people what it is they have committed to.

Uefa, European football’s governing body, is also working on a code of conduct for all players in Europe. The EPFL has developed a Code of Conduct on Sports Betting Integrity, which was unanimously approved by its 20 member leagues, which commits the leagues to put in place educational programmes by 2014. The Football Association in the UK, for example, has five different codes of conduct for different target groups, including spectators and fans. 

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

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