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FIFA: Governments must help in match-fixing fight

updated 6:05 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • World football's governing body calls on governments to help in battling match-fixing
  • FIFA security chief reacts to report from Europol claiming 380 matches were in question
  • Ralf Mutschke says match-fixers face low risk and high gain due to weak prison sentences
  • Hungary's Debrecen confirms matches against Liverpool and Fiorentina under investigation

(CNN) -- FIFA has vowed to act on revelations of worldwide match-fixing, but its top security official warns that the governing body will need help from outside football to eradicate the problem.

Monday's report from Europol said that 380 matches across Europe had been fixed by an Asia-based crime syndicate, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers as well as the continent's top club competitions.

"The cooperation between law enforcement and sporting organizations needs to be strengthened," FIFA's director of security Ralf Mutschke said in a statement.

"The support of law enforcement bodies, legal investigations, and ultimately tougher sanctions are required, as currently there is low risk and high gain potential for the fixers."

Read: Match-fixing threatens 'integrity of football in Europe'

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FIFA already works closely with Interpol, the worldwide police agency, while its European Union counterpart said there had so far been 50 people arrested in 15 countries in an investigation involving 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals.

It is estimated that €16 million ($21.7m) had been bet on matches by criminals, yielding an €8 million ($10.8m) profit, with the highest single bribe of €140,000 paid in Austria.

"Match-fixing and match manipulation is a global problem, and one that is not going to go away tomorrow," Mutschke said.

"FIFA and the football community are committed to tackling this problem, but we will not succeed alone."

Read: FIFA official - 'Match-fixing is a soccer disease'

Mutschke, a former Interpol director and German federal criminal police office manager, said governments need to take a tougher stance on people involved in match-fixing.

"In football, a national association can sanction a member of the football family if they are found guilty of contravening the legal, football framework," he said. "FIFA's Disciplinary Code provides the opportunity to extend those sanctions, and impose a life ban.

"But for people outside of football, currently the custodial sentences imposed are too weak, and offer little to deter someone from getting involved in match-fixing.

"FIFA requests that law enforcement bodies continue their engagement, and continue to assist FIFA in the global fight against match-manipulation and organized criminals, even if the investigations are considered complex."

Read: South African soccer chief suspended

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has also recently called for greater government intervention in match-fixing cases.

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"It is time for governments to introduce appropriate sanctions as a deterrent, for while a player may be prepared to risk a ban for throwing a match, he will most likely not wish to risk a prison sentence," he said on the FIFA website.

"We must lobby governments to introduce legislation of this kind, both nationally and across borders where possible, through countries reaching a common position on this problem."

Reports have claimed that one of the European matches in question was a UEFA Champions League match between English club Liverpool and Hungary's Debrecen.

However, the Premier League side said Tuesday that it had not been contacted by the authorities about the 2009 match, and the English Football Association also denied any knowledge of fixing at that game.

"Liverpool Football Club has not been contacted by anyone from Europol or UEFA in relation to this matter," the five-time European champion told CNN.

"The FA is not aware of any credible reports into suspicious Champions League fixtures in England, nor has any information been shared with us," a spokesman told CNN.

"While the Champions League comes under UEFA jurisdiction, the FA, alongside the Premier League, Football League and Conference, monitor markets for the top seven leagues and three major cup competitions in England and take matters of integrity in football extremely seriously."

In 2010, UEFA banned Debrecen goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic for two years for failing to report that he was approached to fix matches by a betting syndicate before a match against Fiorentina in October the previous year.

The club confirmed that the Liverpool and Fiorentina matches were being investigated, but refused to comment further on the accusations.

"Neither DVSC or the player wants to react to this news. Everything on this matter has been dealt with in 2010," its website reported.

Former FIFA security chief Chris Eaton told CNN World Sport that investigations need to be more proactive.

"This is very easy cash money for organized crime and I think governments should be worried about it," said the Australian, who now works for Qatar-based sports security consultancy ICSS.

"This is typical organized crime behavior: attract people, corrupt people and finally intimidate them.

"I think police have finally realized that this is organized crime and therefore they have an interest. Most of these investigations in Europe happened accidentally. They were investigating crime in other areas and came across this issue of match-fixing.

"There's been no determined effort to have preventative investigation, it's been retrospective. We need to find out who's involved and stop them -- in fact, to prevent them."

A former player who helped expose match-fixing in Italy in 2011 says clubs also need to take more responsibility.

"The management of the clubs have to act and support the players and support the authorities in their investigations," said Simon Farina, who now works as a community coach for English club Aston Villa.

"They cannot leave the players isolated and afraid to speak out when they are confronted by the wrong individuals," he told the Premier League team's website.

Farina was recognized by Interpol after telling the authorities he had been offered a bribe to fix the outcome of an Italian Cup game in November 2011, and was later called up to Italy's national team as a reward.

"Working now with children, I understand completely how important it is to pass on the right values," he said.

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