Saturday, 10 March 2012

Criminal gangs rule match-fixing, warns former Fifa head of security

Fifa's outgoing head of security has warned that match-fixing has led to organised criminal gangs infiltrating large swathes of world football, resulting in the intimidation or even murder of players. "If this was just ad hoc, spontaneous groups of people wanting to fix a few matches it would be contained within a nation or a league," said Chris Eaton, who will leave the world football governing body next month to work for the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS). He said that players were being left at the mercy of fixers and there had been cases where players who had refused to obey instructions and paid "the ultimate price". "This is organised crime. This is the mafia, this is people from organised crime in south-east Asia, from China, who are ripping off many millions of dollars from the illegal gambling dens of south-east Asia," he said. "They start by attracting these people when they're young and then what happens 10 years later? You start by attracting these people, you compromise them or their families and then you bloody well intimidate them. It's been unchecked in football for 10 years." Eaton said the hub of the problem were the illegal markets in south-east Asia, where gambling is mostly illegal. He said the two biggest legal gambling companies in the region turned over $2bn a week. He had "no evidence" of any match-fixing in the UK. "I haven't been looking to tell you the truth. The immediate priority is eastern Europe, Africa, central America and south-east Asia." But he added that many brokers for the biggest gambling syndicates operated out of London. According to Interpol the illegal betting market is worth $500bn in Asia alone. Eaton said that as part of his new role as Director of Sport Integrity at the ICSS, he would be conducting a forensic audit of the size of the illegal market. "There is so much money involved it dwarfs the money in sport itself. Despite the fact we've had a major investigation for 12 months it hasn't stopped them because the sums of money involved are so huge." He said the only way problem could only be tackled was if a single international body worked across all sports and there was more co-operation between law enforcement agencies and governing bodies. "You can have disparate investigations around the world and no one's connecting the dots." Eaton also conceded that third-party ownership of players was a problem as it relates to match-fixing, because it could put players at the mercy of those who own their economic rights. English football authorities have been lobbying Uefa and Fifa to outlaw the practice and Eaton added that Fifa was looking into the issue. "Third-party ownership is a massive problem," said Eaton, who will be replaced at Fifa by the former German police chief Ralf Mutschke. "It's a problem that's being addressed by Fifa as I understand it. There is now some consideration of the third-party ownership side."


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