Match-fixing undermining the integrity of the game
Match fixing in football damages the credibility of the sport, ruins the spectacle of the game for fans and can have clear implications on the economics of sport.
It is a threat that currently exists within football; last month former West Bromwich Albion player Delroy Facey was found guilty of conspiring to bribe non-league players and was sentenced to two and half years in prison.
Football is certainly not alone in being targeted by match fixers and organised crime as it is estimated that £85billion a year is laundered through match fixing in sport.
PFA Assistant Chief-Executive Simon Barker represents the PFA in the Sports Betting Group, a forum of stakeholders in sport which is set up to help prevent corrupt betting activity. It recommends that all sports bodies have an effective integrity structure covering sports betting, which has clear rules and regulations relating to betting, inside information and match fixing, provides regular education and communication programmes to all sports competitors and participants, puts in place mechanisms for recognising and capturing intelligence in relation to sports betting integrity and has an investigative and disciplinary procedure.
Barker explains: "We have to be aware that match-fixing is a clear and present danger,"
“In our experience match-fixers pre-dominantly target players who are vulnerable and have debts, addictions and are inexperienced in these matters."
Barker stresses that education is essential in preventing players experiencing financial difficulties, which in turn can leave them more susceptible to match-fixers, and also to recognise what is happening to them, resisting any offers and reporting any approaches.
“The PFA, in conjunction with other football bodies, as part of its life skills programme, teaches young players aged 16 to 18 coming into the game basic financial realities, including that an earning career in football might be a lot shorter than they think.
“That includes putting money into pensions or bank accounts, rather than on flash expensive cars, which may quickly depreciate and be hard to sell at their true value in an emergency or when their careers are over. The PFA also warns of addiction issues and they have a 24/7 network of counsellors who deal with players who have problems in this area.
“The PFA has identified key building blocks a sport should instill in order to make it more robust to match-fixing approaches, these include: clear rules and regulations as to what participants can and can’t do in this area, a comprehensive player education programme, intelligence gathering and information sharing, a robust but fair disciplinary process, and a clear, proportionate sanctions regime.”
Barker also highlights the responsibility of individual players and other participants in football who have a personal obligation to the integrity of the game.
"If Football's integrity is damaged, then sponsors, supporters and media companies will turn away from the game with the resultant down turn in income. As a participant in professional sport, you shouldn't be doing anything that might undermine your livelihood, or the trust of supporters in this great game of ours."