Friedrich Stickler, a man with a heavy foot in both the football and gambling camps, was warned that “real action” is essential if the game is to resist the danger of being undermined by match fixing in Europe.
Stickler – head of European Lotteries and ex-president of both UEFA’s club competitions panel and the Austrian federation – issued his warning at the ICSS Securing Sport in Doha.
Stickler acknowledged that increasingly refined monitoring systems, as developed by the betting industry and accessed by UEFA and FIFA, had proved effective in Europe.
The downside was that betting fraud attacks were now being directed from countries with minimal legislative supervision.
Stickler said: “Some of the biggest bets are live betting which is taking an increasing share of the market and is very hard to detect in advance or in time because it happens in the last minutes of a game.
“It’s very hard to control this with the monitoring systems because maybe the game is being played in Europe but the manipulation was done from somewhere else and the bets are being placed in Asia.
“Because we do this monitoring we are not having these bets placed in Europe any more but out of, for example, the Philippines. It’s not good for sport but it shows that, when you make proper monitoring, you can keep these people away.
Stickler wants to see all governments agree a unified legislative standard which would see match manipulation defined as a criminal offence. Use of fraud laws had proved insufficient and did not provide for tough enough sanctions.
He said: “If you smuggle drugs maybe you lose your head but if you fix matches you may just be sent home and told not to do it again.”
The scale of the problem had been revealed by the Europol claim that more than 300 national team games in recent years had been ‘attacked.’
He said: “This is really frightening. This is not second division and leagues in countries no-one has heard of, this is big business and even qualifying matches for the Europa League and Champions League so it’s something we cannot underestimate.
“For example, in China the population has lost trust and confidence in our sport completely and the stadia are almost empty. Nobody there is interested in football any more so you can see the huge danger and the threat and that’s why we call for real action and not only discussions.”
By Keir Radnedge