Players are trafficked to fix matches, claims Fifa

Security chief warns of rising threat to game and need to educate and protect footballers

Fifa, world football's governing body, fears players from the game's poorer nations are being "trafficked" in order to facilitate match-fixing.

Young footballers are targeted at junior competitions and helped to earn deals with clubs in Europe and South and Central America by match-fixers, who in return pressurise them to alter the outcome of games from which criminal gambling syndicates can collect huge sums.

On Tuesday seven Zambians and two Georgians were convicted of taking bribes to affect the outcome of games in the Finnish league, with Wilson Raj Perumal, a Singaporean match-fixer, found guilty of bribing the nine players and sentenced to two years in prison. The players received a range of suspended sentences.

During the trial it was estimated that for fixing a game even in the low-key Finnish league, those behind the schemes could make ¤1.5m (£1.3m) per match and 24 fixed matches were identified. At an earlier trial in Finland this year two Zambian brothers were also convicted.

Chris Eaton, Fifa's head of security and the man overseeing the attempt to combat match-fixing, is concerned with the number of players being implicated and how they come to be involved in scams that are impacting leagues in Europe, Asia, Africa and South and Central America.

"It is a form of trafficking, in my view – trafficking for criminal purposes," Eaton told The Independent. "There are examples of players who have been abandoned because they did not perform.

"It is only anecdotal evidence at this stage but it is clear. They [match-fixers] often target people from humble origins. They will go to junior competitions and recruit families of players basically through the attraction of cash. 'I can get you a contract, or a game in Europe or in South America' – they will invest in the development of players and officials and then they expect payment – they want their cut."

A range of measures are being explored in an attempt to deal with the problem, including Interpol briefing all international players before the finals of Fifa competitions. It begins with those at Under-17 and Under-20 level – the most vulnerable – but if England qualify for the 2014 finals in Brazil it would see the squad being instructed on the threat of match-fixing and given clear guidance that there is a system in place for them to report any approaches or suspicions. Fifa is still in discussions with Interpol – they are giving Interpol $20m in funding assistance – as to how the briefings and education programmes are best implemented, but hopes they will be made concrete next year and may even be used for the football competition at the London Olympics.

"These people are criminals, they are organised," said Eaton, a former Interpol officer. "They are well funded and have a long-term plan. They are a real and present danger to the sanctity and ethics of sport. I would not understate its seriousness."

Fifa has determined on a more robust approach, tacitly admitting it could have taken more direct action in the past. February's friendly internationals in Turkey between Bolivia and Latvia, and Estonia and Bulgaria are under investigation for match-fixing – all seven goals were penalties – through corrupt officials. Fifa was aware of concerns that something was amiss but did not feel they had enough proof to prevent the games from going ahead. Eaton said: "It was unconfirmed source information, perhaps if the same match was to happen today I would take a different action.

"Fifa's primary task is to prevent match-fixing. If I have information that a game is fixed I will try to stop it. We are considering all our options. Fifa is redesigning its regulatory arrangements for international friendlies and competition matches, particularly in qualifiers. These are all capable of being abused by match-fixers. We need to arm federations with good due diligence skills – so they know whether these people arranging the matches are genuine. Prevention is the primary task. The second is to protect players and officials from the approach of criminals. They need to have somewhere to go in the full knowledge that they will be assisted and supported. The approach of cricket has been excellent – we will talk more with other sports as well."

At Fifa's congress in Zurich last month, moves to ensure friendlies would come under the governing body's control – previously they had been the responsibility of the host association – were passed. Coincidentally that evening Argentina played Nigeria in a friendly in Abuja, the home side winning 4-1 in a match that involved six players who are with Premier League clubs. The game is under investigation although there is no suggestion players are involved in wrongdoing. Eaton's security team are trying to trace the referee, Ibrahim Chaibou of Niger, who awarded a dubious penalty in the eighth minute of injury time. Betting patterns on the match were irregular.

Chaibou was also in charge of a match last year between Bahrain and Togo – a Togo team later discovered to have been made up of imposters. The friendly was arranged by Perumal.

Eaton said: "If there's a legacy for Perumal's arrest and conviction, it is that it's brought more clarity to the global nature of the match-fixing enterprise. It's about criminality. Very few people in the football world understood the absolute multi-nationality of match-fixing and the ability of match-fixers like Perumal to roam widely internationally to compromise players, officials and administrators almost at will."

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick