23 December 2017 – Maladministration, corruption and match-fixing are age-old problems that have plagued not just football, but sports in general.
Cheating in the beautiful game is responsible for billions of dollars being exchanged by the guilty parties involved and hurts the game more than anything else. All corners of the globe are affected in some way, shape or form from the smallest leagues all the way up to the highest of levels.
The ‘billion dollar’ (pun intended) question remains though – what exactly can be done to curb or indeed stop such practices.
Firstly, authorities, bodies, organisations and the powers-that-be need to treat every day activities less like a business and focus more on actual governance. As the saying goes: ‘Where money flows, corruption flows’. With less attention on profit margins, lucrative deals, sponsorships, endorsements, television rights and salaries, the slimmer the chances of greedy money hungry paws getting their hands on illicit funds. Of course the above-mentioned aspects are important but need to be strictly controlled with detailed measures and procedures in place.
Secondly, players, match-officials, stakeholders, intermediaries and administrators need to be compensated properly and in accordance to global standards. Miniscule salaries have proven to be the prime reason for cheating in football. Such payments also need to be paid timeously with the relevant individuals knowing exactly what funds (and bonuses) to expect. The Chinese Super League has battled with this in recent times.
Internal differences between staff and management (who need to be thoroughly screened in the first place) at all levels also needs to be sorted out, particularly at the highest of levels. Unhappy people within such organisations are a breeding ground for corrupt activity.
Uniform penalties for transgressions would also be a step in the right direction. One cannot have different laws and rules for transgressors. A referee found guilty of fixing a match in Japan cannot have a different penalty for the exact same transgression by a referee in Australia for example. Standardization is the best solution in such instances as everyone will be on the same page and know exactly where they stand with no grey areas.
Another vital component in curbing cheating in the sport is a formal collaboration with public authorities. Those responsible are more often than not part of ‘organised crime’ units and factions and most of the time not even involved in sport itself. The police, independent security units, Interpol, special investigative units, formal prosecution, trials, phone tapping and more come into play here. Formal relationships with FIFA/national and local bodies in conjunction with crime-fighting units is key to fighting this scourge.
Betting operators also need to be held responsible and be well regulated. Such agencies are a hotspot for illegal activities and should be instructed by law to be more transparent with all betting and even provide annual (or quarterly) reports on all bets, pay-outs and incoming/outgoing monies. Spot audits (both internal and external) should also be made mandatory.
At the end of the day all of the above ideas are only meaningful if executed correctly and if everyone puts in the necessary efforts. Education and marketing are also necessary initiatives.
Our country is particularly lucky as the South African Football Association (SAFA) firmly believes in fair-play with the implementation of their new Integrity Framework to ensure proper governance and align with FIFA’s Code of Ethics. There is also an independent anti-corruption hotline (0800 777 222 8), an internal integrity number (079 496 1262) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org). It starts with us!
By: Dhirshan Gobind