Match-fixing in football is a problem that FIFA is constantly dealing with, and it is also being addressed by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.
Dr. Laila Mintas, CONCACAF director of integrity, admits that corruption in sports, particularly, match-fixing, is one of the greatest threats to the credibility of competitions worldwide. She is a sports law professor at St. Johns University in New York.
“If the outcome of a game is determined before it starts, football stands to lose a lot more than just its credibility,” Mintas said.
“Allegations of match-fixing and corruption have already led to cancellation of sponsor contracts and, longer term, fans will stay away.”
When the first initiatives to prevent match manipulation were introduced a few years ago, the focus was on raising awareness about the phenomenon, she said. Criminals who have fixed matches make fortunes on betting on the outcomes.
One player under the spotlight is the Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera. He has said his “conscience is totally clear” and denied any involvement in match-fixing after an anti-corruption public prosecutor named him among the 41 people charged for allegedly fixing a game between Real Zaragoza and Levante in May 2011.
Mintas said: “With the increase of match-fixing scandals worldwide and its adverse impact on the integrity of football, but also on other sports such as tennis, snooker, cricket, badminton, volleyball, and horse racing, it is accepted that a multi-faceted approach to match-fixing is essential if the game is not to be reduced to a farce.”
She wants football organizations to implement more measures to prevent, investigate and sanction match manipulation cases under their jurisdiction. Building strong relationships between football and local law enforcement authorities is a step toward investigating match-fixing in football, but practical problems might occur if this problem is not a criminal act in certain countries, she added.
“This might sound bizarre, but just the act of offering someone a financial or other monetary benefit in exchange for fixing the course or result of a football match is not a criminal offense under national law in many jurisdictions worldwide.”
Mintas gave the example of Germany – World Cup winners only five months ago – where it is not illegal to offer a player cash or any other inducement to lose a football game on purpose.
“In some cases, criminal procedures against the accused was abandoned because match manipulation was not covered by the national law,” she said.
“While several football organizations worldwide have already started to sanction people under their own governing regulations for being involved in match manipulation, they are completely powerless to sanction people outside the sports organizations.”