Global efforts to prevent corruption in football reached a milestone with the announcement Monday that world football’s governing body, FIFA, is to donate to INTERPOL the largest grant it has ever received from a private institution to create an unprecedented ten-year programme worth millions of euros a year at a dedicated FIFA Anti-Corruption Training Wing within the INTERPOL Global Complex (IGC) in Singapore.
The announcement was made by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble at a press conference held at the Home of FIFA in Zurich. Under the agreement, INTERPOL will receive EUR 4 million in each of the first two years, followed by EUR 1.5 million in each of the following eight years.
INTERPOL’s longest-ever funded initiative will target illegal and irregular betting and match-fixing, the scale of which has been highlighted by recent fixing allegations and the involvement of Asian gambling syndicates in global match-fixing – with estimates by INTERPOL’s global law enforcement network that illegal football gambling is worth up to hundreds of millions of US dollars in Asia alone each year.
In this respect, the initiative will provide cutting-edge training, education and prevention to protect the sport, the players and the fans from fraud and corruption.
“The threat of match-fixing in sport is a major one, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to tackle this threat,” said President Blatter. “In the fight against illegal betting and match-fixing, the preventive measures that can be taken and the protection of the players and the integrity of the game are of the utmost importance. Joint work with the authorities and with INTERPOL is crucial for success, and for this reason we are very pleased to announce this contribution today, which will further enhance our cooperation,” he added.
During the press conference, FIFA also announced the creation of an internal Betting Integrity Investigation Task Force, which will comprise members of FIFA’s Legal Division and Security Department, as well as the Early Warning System GmbH.
“Match-fixing shakes the very foundations of sport, namely fair play, respect and discipline. That’s why FIFA employs a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any infringement of these values,” concluded the FIFA President.
INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble hailed FIFA’s and President Blatter’s commitment to keeping the world’s most popular and influential sport clean.
“By funding a long-term corruption prevention training programme to be designed and implemented by INTERPOL – the world’s largest international police institution with 188 member countries – to counter transnational organised crime’s attempts to corrupt the sport and its players, officials and administrators, FIFA has taken a significant step towards ensuring the integrity of football worldwide,” said Noble.
As INTERPOL and FIFA look to the future, basing this anti-corruption initiative at INTERPOL’s upcoming Global Complex in Singapore while delivering training programmes from INTERPOL Regional Bureaus and offices all over the world will help both INTERPOL and FIFA achieve their common goal of keeping the world’s most popular sport free of the corrupt influences of transnational organised crime syndicates.
“Illicit betting and match-fixing rings have demonstrated their global reach to fundamentally undermine football from one continent to another by corrupting administrators, officials and players and they require a global response,” said Noble.
Endorsing the initiative, the World Bank’s Vice-President of Integrity, Leonard McCarthy, said: “Corruption should always be offside. Cleaning-up initiatives are a much-needed golden goal against corruption, and an important step toward keeping football worthy of its nickname: the beautiful game.”
Noble outlined how links had been established between match-fixing, illegal betting and organised crime at international level and how organised criminals frequently engage in loan-sharking and use intimidation and violence to collect debts, forcing their desperate, indebted victims into drug smuggling and their family members into prostitution.
“Today’s agreement between INTERPOL and FIFA therefore provides a unique opportunity to challenge corruption both on and off the pitch,” concluded the head of INTERPOL.
INTERPOL has co-ordinated several successful operations targeting illegal gambling in Asia, with SOGA III, conducted throughout the 2010 FIFA World Cup involving police across China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand and resulting in the arrest of more than 5,000 individuals with raids conducted on nearly 800 illegal gambling dens which had handled more than USD 155 million worth of bets.
The programme will create a continuous learning and operational platform for all officials involved directly or indirectly in international and national football.
It will also deliver regional training and advice at international football events such as the FIFA World Cup™ and FIFA Club World Cup, as well as at youth competitions ranging from Under-17 to Under-20 events.