Sports on Earth – Aside from wondering which national team will be crowned champion, for astute soccer fans the burning question of the upcoming 2014 World Cup is not can matches be fixed by gamblers, but will they be?
FIFA assures us that every precaution has been taken to prevent match fixers from corrupting any games played in Brazil. The organization has begun an “Integrity Initiative” among players, featuring the catchy mantra “Recognize it, resist it and report it.” To aid in this program, FIFA instituted a hotline for players, team officials and referees to report “suspicious activity” anonymously. The hotline also offers educational material (in five languages) catered to each group match fixers tend to target.
FIFA also has its Early Warning System (EWS) in place. Launched in July 2007, the EWS, according to FIFA’s website, “monitors betting on all FIFA matches and competitions in order to prevent negative influences from betting. EWS also works to evaluate any opportunities and risks presented by sports betting for the game of football.” Staffed by dedicated personnel in Zurich, the EWS monitors every single FIFA-sanctioned match, searching for unusual movements within the odds and betting that may signal a fix is in progress.
Despite these efforts, there are still huge, gaping holes. Ralf Mutschke, FIFA’s head of security and a former INTERPOL executive, told the BBC that FIFA has already circled certain World Cup matches that they feel may become suspect. Mutschke also revealed that specific teams have been identified as being vulnerable to fixers. Worse yet, approaches to these teams and players have already occurred. “I’ve had reports that people are approaching players and offering $20,000 without a grooming period,” Mutschke told the BBC. Given the amount of money at stake in the World Cup gambling market, players — if tempted — should be holding out for larger bribes.