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  • Confronting matchfixing in Canada



    With all the SuperDraft attention this week, it would be easy to have missed this story on FIFA security director Ralf Mutschke essentially waving the white flag on their ability to combat matchfixing.

    In an interview with the assembled press, the former German Interpol officer told reporters that FIFA had been involved in 20 match-fixing investigations in 2012. And in the same breath of admitting the problem could get worse, with a number of little known national leagues already vulnerable to corruption, said, "realistically, there is no way" FIFA can tackle organized crime.

    That's a terrifying admission and one that has implications for Canada.


    Since the CBC story last year showed how vulnerable the Canadian Soccer League was to the whims of these fixers, the line from the Canadian Soccer Association has been to defer to FIFA. In an effort to follow up, initially I was told the CSA were waiting on an investigation report from FIFA. A short time later, I was then told no report was forthcoming in the near future, or perhaps at all. The line then became that they were passing all the information on the OPP and local law enforcement and leaving it up to them. After several months of trying to reach someone at the OPP who may be handling the case, I have yet to find anyone who has handled anything on the matter.

    In October, CSA president Victor Montagliani told me this:

    "I don't think it's fair to say we have been passing the buck on this issue," Montagliani said. "We followed proper procedure when reporting it to the authorities.

    "But we want to take care of our own house. So one of the recommendations we're going to adopt after the conference will be that we bring on a domestic security advisor to monitoring fixing issues in Canada."

    Montagliani expanded on what the responsibilities of the domestic security adviser will be.

    "Their role will be working with our professional leagues and working with our clubs and the people involved in the game to identify allegations," he said. "And also, on the other side of that, looking at the monitoring of the game and addressing some of the areas that are red flags."

    FIFA's Mutschke is currently holding security meetings with officials from around the world - including Canada - to discuss what can be done to assist in prevention. The CSA told me in October that they plan to bring on this security adviser following these meetings. Given Mutschke's declarations though, an adviser would really just be a drop in the bucket of what needs to be done.

    Especially when you consider this report from Interpol that says that matchfixing generates hundreds of billions of Euros a year. FIFA is committing $28 million in response and pledging to work alongside Interpol in stamping out this massive problem. But, again, drop in the bucket.

    The CSA may not be equipped to deal with the depth and scope of the fixing in Canada, but one thing is clear: I saw first hand over the last few years the conditions that create an enviroment ripe for matchfixing. There are things that can be done to confront it.

    As a result, here are three things that Canadian soccer can do right now, with little effort, to ensure what happened here, never happens again in Canadian soccer.

    1) Create a player's union/council.

    Canada maybe the only country in the world without one. Elsewhere, when a player isn't being paid the money he is owed by a club, he can go to the player's union/council to act on his behalf in retrieving those funds. Without one, Canadian players are forced to look elsewhere to help pay their bills. For most in the lower leagues, that usually means picking up work whereever they can get it. For some, it has meant turning to the lures of matchfixing. A major complaint I have heard repeatedly from players in these lower leagues is that they get jerked around by their teams. Whether that means seeing excessive fines, or changing their contracts mid-way through the year, fixers are aware of who is and isn't getting paid. They're being targetted based on that. A player's union/council obviously won't stop the fixers from approaching players but it could help them to say no when they are solicited.

    2) Create an anonymous tip line

    Perhaps the most frustrating thing during the investigation of the CSL was the number of people who came forward and told us what they know, got cold feet and the begged us to not use what they'd shared. Whether it was by intimidation or, as it was in most cases, out of their own self preservation professionally, the similar thread between all of them is that they wanted to remain anonymous. You can't underestimate the social and professional impact a player, coach or official will go through when they're seen to be a 'snitch.' In one particular case, a player told us that his teammates had warned him that he'd likely never play again if he spoke out on the record. It was enough to convince him, despite assurances otherwise, that he had made a mistake by just telling the truth on what he'd seen go on. In some parts of the world, these tip lines even include financial reward for information leading to arrests. That may not be possible in Canada but the least we can do is provide some cover for those who are trying to do the right thing

    3) Deal with the CSL

    Since the documentary, despite plenty of evidence presented on the show and followup stories, there have been no lifetime suspensions for players, no discipline taken against the CSL, no internal investigation and, really no action taken at all. It's time for FIFA, the CSA and all on those on decision-maker front to start taking ownership of the situation and stop passing the responsibility on to the next man. As I've written before, by not dealing with it on a criminal level and on a soccer level it sends the wrong message to players, owners and even fixers. Is Canada open for business when it comes to matchfixing? The very fact that Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble went out of his way to single Canada out in this BBC report, on the scale of matchfixing facing the world, should be reason enough to cause the CSA to finally act. Finally taking action won't stop matchfixers from coming to Canada to seek out easy profits, but trying and failing is a world better than not trying at all.

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