Sport

FIFA warns of 'long' fight against match-fixing

Thursday, January 17, 2013    

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ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) — FIFA security director Ralf Mutschke warns that football has "a long way to go" to defeat match-fixing by organised crime gangs.

FIFA was involved in 20 match-fixing investigations worldwide last year, and Mutschke told reporters the problem could get worse because 100 national leagues are vulnerable to corruption when crime syndicates can so easily bet on matches online.

"FIFA is not going to eradicate match-fixing or corruption," Mutschke said on Tuesday at a briefing ahead of a two-day European conference on fighting match-fixing which opens today in Italy.

The German former Interpol official accepted that "realistically, there is no way" FIFA can tackle organised crime, which has targeted betting on football as a profitable scam with low risks of being caught, prosecuted or sentenced heavily.

Mutschke said FIFA needs more help from national law enforcement agencies worldwide, and has asked Interpol to persuade its members to help protect the world's most popular sport.

Mutschke said the "the key to success" of his long-term strategy, shaped since joining FIFA last June, is raising integrity levels by educating referees, players and officials to resist approaches by fixers.

"I rely on law enforcement to take care of organized crime, and I would like to take care about the football family," said Mutschke, who has selected detectives from Germany and the United States to work with him in Zurich. A third planned recruit from Britain will be based in London.

Mutschke is undertaking a global series of meetings with security officials from FIFA's 209 national members, including workshops in New York, Brazil and Ukraine in the coming weeks.

Still, he acknowledged difficulties in creating a "global alert network" of dedicated integrity officers employed by each member to help police 1,500 matches -- the World Cup, national team competitions and friendlies -- that FIFA has responsibility for each year.

"This is my challenge and this is my greatest doubt," Mutschke said at FIFA headquarters. "I will probably fail in doing so, but at least I would like to say I tried."

UEFA has led by example, deciding in March 2011 to create a similar network among its 53 members. That initiative followed UEFA's work with prosecutors in Bochum, Germany, to break up a syndicate which fixed matches across Europe, including bribing a Bosnian referee to help fix a 2010 World Cup qualifier between Liechtenstein and Finland.

FIFA, UEFA and Interpol will lead the two-day conference in Rome, as Italy continues to deal with its own damaging case: Juventus coach Antonio Conte has served a four-month ban for not reporting evidence and several Serie A clubs had points deducted.

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