Integrity in sports update: FIFpro hold first "Train The Trainer" match-fixing initiative

Weekly media recap 29 June 2015 - 5 July 2015

This week in the media, the ongoing Dutch investigation highlights how the manipulation of football match goal difference can assure large profits, whilst the methods and costs of organising match-fixing are emerging in the Italian investigation.

Also study carried out in Poland produced interesting findings suggesting that Tennis is one of the most targeted sports by match-fixers.

 

CURRENT INVESTIGATION

Greece

Olympiakos Piraeus are keeping their spot in the Champions League for the time being despite investigations in Greece into the club's owner Vangelis Marinakis, UEFA said on Tuesday.

Marinakis was banned from soccer earlier this month and has also been ordered to report to police every 15 days on strict bail terms. He is accused of being involved in and directing a criminal organization, aiding and abetting blackmailing, aiding and abetting extortion, and aiding and abetting bribery and fraud. Olympiakos have qualified directly for the Champions League group stage after winning the Greek Super League last season.

"The UEFA disciplinary bodies have provisionally admitted Olympiakos," UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told reporters. "There are investigations in Greece (and) the situation could change....as we all know, this kind of investigation can take some time, we need to have some clear evidence." "I think our bodies have shown they are very firm when it comes to match-fixing; if there is any evidence, they will take this into account." "There is a clear rule as well which automatically excludes a club involved in match-fixing." Marinakis has already said that he is still the "major shareholder and guarantor of the future of our Olympiakos." The latest Greek football scandal, following the 'Koriopolis' match-fixing probe of 2011, emerged in April when a 173-page document was revealed by prosecutor Aristidis Korreas and prompted a nationwide investigation. Korreas's document contained transcriptions of telephone tapping operated by the National Intelligence Service. It is alleged that Marinakis and Hellenic Soccer Federation EPO officials Giorgos Sarris and Theodoros Kouridis were responsible for directing a criminal organization from 2011 with the aim of "absolute control of Greek football's fate by the methods of blackmailing and fraud". Sarris, president of the EPO from October 2012 to December 2014, has been banned from soccer and ordered to remain in Greece as part of his bail terms. He denies all accusations.

Source: AP, "Olympiakos Champions League spot safe for now ", 30 June 2015, Ekathimerini, https://www.ekathimerini.com/198741/article/ekathimerini/sports/olympiakos-champions-league-spot-safe-for-now

Italy

Antonino Pulvirenti, president of Italian football club Catania, has been accused of paying £71,000 (€99,700/$111,600) to fix five matches in order to keep his team in the country’s Serie B second-tier.

As reported by iGaming Business, Pulvirenti was this month confirmed as one of seven people to have been arrested over alleged match-fixing activities in Italy.

Prosecutors have now alleged that, during interrogation, the Catania president admitted he paid for five matches to be fixed during the 2014-15 season.

It has been alleged that the matches were fixed to ensure that Catania avoided relegation from Serie B – a feat that was achieved by the team finishing 15th in the league, two point above the relegation play-off places.

Of the five matches said to have been fixed, Catania won four and drew the other – a run that helped the team move up the league away from the relegation zone.

A statement on the Catania website said although Pulvirenti had “contacts with other parties” to try to save the club from relegation, these had no “real effect on the outcome”.

A total of 19 people, are currently under investigation, including players, agents and employees from the online gambling industry. The case continues.

Source: AP, "Prosecutors allege Catania president paid to fix five matches", 1 July 2015, Gaming Business, https://www.igamingbusiness.com/news/prosecutors-allege-catania-president-paid-fix-five-matches

Netherlands

The match-fixing scandal involving premier division club Willem II has deepened following the discovery of emails between midfielder Ibrahim Kargbo and a match-fixer.

In the e-mails, Kargbo and the match-fixer discuss the manipulation of the away matches with FC Utrecht (1-0), Sparta (2-1) and NAC (4-0), the Volkskrant reports. A suspect cup match against Roda JC in 2008, reported earlier by the Telegraaf, is also mentioned. Willem II lost that match 1-0 after a strange goal when defender Danny Schenkel tripped over the ball.

In January, the Volkskrant reported on two matches: Ajax-Willem II (4-0) in October 2009 and Feyenoord-Willem II (1-0) in December that year.

The first match – in which the gamblers betted on a goal difference of at least three – netted the syndicate at least €1m, the paper said. The second game did not go according to plan and the bought players failed to engineer the two-goal difference.

Source: AP, "Match-fixing scandal in Dutch football deepens", 3 July 2015, Dutch News, https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2015/07/match-fixing-scandal-in-dutch-football-deepens/

Nigeria

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja President of the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA), Tade Azeez, is to be investigated by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) after the allegation that he had a hand in the fixing of a Glo Premier League match between Gabros FC (now IfeanyiUba FC) and Sharks on May 17, 2015.

NFF Secretary General, Mohammed Sanusi, confirmed yesterday that the federation was investigating the matter after it was issued a query by international football governing body, FIFA.

Azeez is alleged to have influenced the Centre Referee, Henry Ogunyamodi from Ondo State, to affect the outcome of the Match Day 9 encounter played in Nnewi.

Sanusi called for more information on the matter to help the federation in the investigation. Similarly, the Chairman of the League Management Company (LMC), Shehu Dikko, has said that the league body was interested in the outcome of the investigation.

Source: AP, "NFF Investigates Nra President Over Match-Fixing", 1 July 2015, All Africa, https://allafrica.com/stories/201507011037.html

 

LEGISLATION

Vietnam

More than five years after the legalization of sports betting was officially discussed for the first time, Vietnam's government is still struggling to finalize a draft decree aiming to regulate the business.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has recently ordered the Ministry of Finance to continue consulting with related agencies in order to complete the draft and allow people to bet on horse and greyhound races, and football matches.

In an interview with Thanh Nien, Nguyen Hoang Duong, an official with the finance ministry, said although the government and the National Assembly -- Vietnam's legislature -- all agreed on legalizing sports betting, "technical issues" will have to be considered and solved "cautiously and gradually."

Sports Minister Hoang Tuan Anh also said sports betting is a "sensitive" issue, so it is bound to face many difficulties.

He said his ministry and other related agencies are "determined" to make it legal in Vietnam, and that they are drafting related regulations "step by step."

Source: AP, "Vietnam still unsure about plan to legalize sports betting", 5 July 2015, Thanhnien News, https://www.thanhniennews.com/sports/vietnam-still-unsure-about-plan-to-legalize-sports-betting-47516.html

 

ODDS AND ENDS

Costa Rica

FIFPro’s newly minted match fixing initiative got off to a strong start in Costa Rica. Representatives from unions in fifteen countries attended the “Train the Trainer” event in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, for a three day symposium on tactics to deter and disincentivize engagement in match fixing.

FIFPro’s campaign, which is a combined initiative with FIFA, focuses on getting footballers and other stakeholders to “Recognise, Resist and Report”. It aims to create enhanced opportunities to recognize when instances of match fixing may be perpetrated or suggested while providing the necessary tools for stakeholders to resist any engagement with nefarious ideas and simultaneously report these activities to the relevant authorities. To train the eager participants, Interpol provided representatives from its organization, showing the commitment to eradicate match fixing extends beyond football. This commitment was mirrored in the range of participants, which included members from unions across North, South and Central America. Delegates from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela attended the retreat. These participants are then tasked to implement workshops in their respective countries in order to contribute to the spread of this crucial information.

The symposium marks the beginning of FIFPro’s landmark effort to draw attention to match fixing on the game and work to create awareness towards counter measures against this scourge.

It is very important to have learned about match fixing [and that] we are also at risk and now we have the tools to prevent and combat it in our league.” Fernando Revilla, the Secretary General of the Agremiacion de Futbolistas Profesionales del Peru (SAFAP), said in comments following the event.

Source: AP, "International Symposium Against Match Fixing Held in Costa Rica", 5 July 2015, News CO, https://news.co.cr/international-symposium-against-match-fixing-held-in-costa-rica/39998/

Italy

UEFA said Tuesday it had been shocked by reports that Italian second division games have been fixed for 100000 euros. UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino reacted after the president of Serie B club Catania reportedly admitted to buying the results of five matches in the past season.

"We are of course sad to learn what is happening. We are worried that a second division club can fix five matches paying 100000 euros per match' Infantino told a press conference.

We are worried about the situation and in general and that is why we are fighting against it. 'That's why we are working with the prosecutors that's why we are working with associations."

Italian police have arrested five people including Catania president Antonio Pulvirenti over the latest match-fixing scandal to rock Italian football. Pulvirenti made his confession on Monday according to Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
"Unfortunately we are dealing with criminal organizations" Infantino said of the Italian case.

UEFA is now using a sophisticated data collection system to monitor all first and second division games in Europe. There are also anti-fraud officers in each of UEFA's 54 members.

Source: AP, "UEFA 'worried' by Italian match fixing ", 30 June 2015, Menafn, https://menafn.com/1094267025/UEFA-worried-by-Italian-match-fixing

Poland

One study concludes over 20 first-round pro tennis matches are fixed every year. Why? Because it's almost too easy to throw a match.

The bookies knew something was up. Eleven bettors, nine of them based in Russia, had just put millions of dollars via the English sportsbook Betfair on Martin Vassallo Arguello beating Nikolay Davydenko in their match at the Orange Prokrom Open in Sopot, Poland on August 2, 2007. The wagers, which pushed the total betting volume to 10 times past average, came in after Arguello, ranked 87th in the world, had dropped the first set 6-2 to Davydenko, ranked 4th in the world. Davydenko eventually retired from the match in the third set, citing a stress fracture in his left foot.

If the fix was in, no one was bothering to cover their tracks. Per their agreement, Betfair alerted the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the governing body of men’s professional tennis, of the suspicious betting patterns and voided all bets placed on the match. The ATP launched an inquiry that lasted more than a year, the association’s longest ever investigation of match fixing. Both Davydenko and Arguello were cleared by the ATP of any wrongdoing due to a lack of evidence.

Then there’s the sport’s inherent vulnerability to “spot fixing.” European sportsbooks allow bettors to wager on not just matches, but sets, games, and even individual points. A corrupt player could easily throw a handful of points over the course of a match and not even the keenest observer would be able to spot it.

Of course, a player needs motivation to go corrupt. Tennis does a fine job of making sure players have the best motivation of all. “The problem lies in players’ pay,” says Brian Tuohy, a journalist and author who has written extensively on gambling in sports. “If a player recognizes he or she is a good player, but can never be a ‘great’ one, traveling the world and playing for gamblers could easily make for a better life than attempting to be ranked in the top 10.

Source: Tomas Rios, "The Secret World of Tennis Gambling", 5 July 2015, The Daily Beast, https://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/05/the-secret-world-of-tennis-gambling.html#

 

SENTENCES/SANCTIONS

Singapore

A former sports betting trader who cheated Singapore Pools of about $200,000 by setting up a scheme with a colleague to manipulate football odds was jailed for four years yesterday.

Ricky Widjaja, 26, admitted to 13 of 52 counts of scheming with Thomas Tong Heng Huat, 32, to use a computer to access a program called Margin Maker 2 (MM2), with the intention to cheat Singapore Pools. District Judge Toh Yung Cheong denied bail for the permanent resident, pending his appeal against the sentence.

The court heard that some time in August 2011, the pair decided to cheat their employer by using MM2 to manipulate the odds for the "total goals: over/under" category of bets for various league and international football matches.

Source: Elena Chong, "Ex-sports betting trader who tweaked football odds jailed", 3 July 2015, Straits Times, https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/ex-sports-betting-trader-who-tweaked-football-odds-jailed

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