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FIFA President, Infantino, expresses concern over match-fixing, calls for vigilance




FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, has raised concerns about the issue of match manipulation, saying with the financial strains of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need to remain more vigilant than ever, to ensure that those involved in matches are not capable of match-fixing.

Speaking on safeguarding sport from corruption and crime, at the 14th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Infantino, said through FIFA’s work to reform the transfer system, the organisation was striving to ensure the fair and correct distribution of money, in compliance with national and international financial regulations, including applicable anti-money laundering laws.

He said the body, with a rock-solid commitment to good governance has laid solid foundations to eliminate corruption from football.

The FIFA President maintained that having set up the FIFA Guardians Programme with the UNICEF, Council of Europe, and Safe Sport International to help prevent any risk of harm to children and those most vulnerable, and to respond appropriately if concerns arise, it was looking to do even more in the fight against the sport’s most serious crimes in society.

His words: “FIFA is a proud ally of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). We are truly thankful for the partnership that we established with UNODC last year to tackle one of the toughest issues facing our sport, including child safeguarding, protecting sports integrity and preventing crime.”

“We are currently discussing to potentially establish an independent, multi-sports, multi-government and multi-agency international centre for safe sports, to help manage cases of abuse of children in sport.”

Meanwhile, findings by Ripples Nigeria showed that illicit manipulation of matches was still an issue in Africa, especially in Nigeria and in the world at large. In fact, the organised crime had eaten deep into the fabrics of football, both home and abroad.

A recent report by the popular UK daily The Guardian, showed that the sports were facing a “massive spread in the cancer of match-fixing” during the COVID-19 era, noting that investigators confirmed that match-fixers have diversified into new areas and targeting vulnerable teams, players and officials.

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In 2020, experts at Sportradar, seen by FIFA as the global leader in detecting match manipulation, tracked more than 600,000 matches across 26 sports, and saw a steep rise in suspicious betting activity in football friendlies, as well as several other sports including table tennis, esports and volleyball, despite fewer matches being played during the pandemic.

According to the Managing Director, Sportradar, Andreas Krannich, while the amount of sport collapsed in 2020 as a consequence of COVID-19, the company discovered a massive spread in match-fixing.

He said, “In the past match-fixers have targeted those sports and leagues where the profit and turnover is biggest, such as football, tennis and basketball. But now they have diversified.

“What the fixers quickly understood is that a lot of sports are now suffering financially as a consequence of COVID-19, and where there is far less money, players, referees, coaches, presidents are increasingly vulnerable. We have even seen match-fixers take over complete clubs, invest, bring in some of their own staff, and start to manipulate.”

In Africa’s biggest economy, footballers and officials have been caught in act of match-fixing and other corruptions, either by the world football-governing body, FIFA or some national associations, a situation that has cast doubts on the integrity of players from the country.

In 2017, former director-general of the defunct National Sports Commission (NSC), Amos Adamu, was banned from all football-related activities by FIFA for allegedly demanding gratification before the votes were cast for the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup competitions.

The incident was followed by the one-year ban of former national team coach, Salisu Yusuf, for accepting to receive £1,000 from undercover reporters to include two players in the team he was preparing for the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN).

AS team manager of Nigerian Premier League side, Gateway Football Club from 2003 -2005, Nigeria’s International, Tajudeen Disu, said he experienced match-fixing face to face.

Once, he said he was accosted by an officiating referee on the eve of a home match in Abeokuta, Ogun State, to bribe his team with N200, 000 to secure a penalty the next day. With N400, 000, the referees were ready to award the home team two fraudulent penalties and an assurance that his team walked away with the three points at stake.

When asked if match-fixing was real, he said: “Yes, It is real. It is rampant and existed long before now. It is in our league and it stared at me in the face while I was managing Gateway FC. In my presence, a referee has ordered a penalty replay three times until a goal was registered.

“Sometimes the host team is responsible for fixing a match and other times the away team could be the fixer. As soon as a referee gets to a matching venue, the host club will whisk him off to an unknown hotel. Referees are given women (prostitutes), cash and freebies to manipulate matches.

Read Also: FIFA lodges criminal complaint against Blatter over finances of Swiss museum

“For a while, there was a fixed rate of N200, 000 for penalty and if you want two penalties as security for maximum points, you have to part with N400, 000. They come to you with confidence. Sometimes I feel like punching them.”

In 2013, Nigeria football witnessed match-fixing at a bigger level when four National League (Second Division) teams agreed to fix their matches. One Premier League ticket was at stake.

With Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine looking to move up on last day round of matches, Plateau United were 7-0 up at a half time against Akurba FC, and Police machine 6-0 ahead against Babayaro FC, then the games went from the bizarre to the truly ridiculous.

Plateau United went on to score 72 goals in the second half to claim an unprecedented 79-0 win, which was enough to finish ahead of Police Machine, who could only manage a 67-0 victory, a game in which someone scored 11 goals, three own goals, and saw four strikes within sixty seconds.

The Nigerian FA banned all four teams for ten years due to the ‘shameful incident.’

In 2019, FIFA handed a life ban to Nigerian famous coach, Samson Siasia, following his indictment as a collaborator in fixing 2011 Nigeria-Argentina friendly match in Abuja.

FIFA had said in a statement that Siasia was “guilty of having accepted that he would receive bribes in relation to the manipulation of matches in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics.”

The statement reads, “The formal ethics proceedings against Mr Siasia were initiated on February 11, 2019, and stem from an extensive investigation, into matches that Mr Wilson Raj Perumal attempted to manipulate for betting purposes.

“This large-scale investigation was conducted by FIFA via its competent departments and in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders and authorities.

“In its decision, the adjudicatory chamber found that Mr Siasia had breached Act. 11 (Bribery) of the 2009 edition of the FIFA Code of Ethics and banned him for life from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level.

“In addition, a fine in the amount of CHF50, 000 has been imposed on Mr Siasia. The decision was notified to Mr Siasia today, the date on which the ban comes into force.”

However, in stout defence of his reputation, Siasia said he never got any communication with FIFA before the decision to ban him was reached.

Meanwhile, FIFA said its strength in tacking the issues lie in its collaboration with specialised agencies, saying the body was forming global alliances with international and regional organisations to fight malpractices and help bring about positive social change.

…By Victor Ifeanyi Uzoho

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