Awareness is Key in the Fight Against Match-Fixing

Nick Garlick frem Europol on planary session – Match fixing cure: Is the mafia invincible. Photo: Jannik Toft Friis

During his speeches at Play the Game, Harri Syväsalmi, Director of Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland, has explained that shining a light on match-fixing is an important factor towards fixing the issue.

”What we need to do is to raise awareness. We are fighting criminal organisations, and we should act accordingly,” he stated.

Awareness is a succes

Senior specialist Nick Garlick of Europol concurs, and explained that investigations serves a bigger purpose in the fight than singular convictions of athletes and criminals.

“We need greater awareness, and the biggest success of the recent investigations is the greater awareness of the issue”.

Make it easier for the whistleblowers

Whistleblowers get a bad reputation, and generally suffers more under the guise of being “rats” than the actual perpetrators of match-fixing.

And as Nick Garlick explains, that attitude needs alteration for something to truly change in the world of sports.

“Athletes should be happy to report match fixing, without being looked down at as whistleblowers. Zero tolerance is not the way in my opinion, and players reporting match fixing should be able to continue their careers without lifetime bans and stigma.”

Athletes as a part of the solution

Harri Syvasalmi agrees, that the athletes should be treated as heroes for blowing the whistle, rather than like criminals.

“Athletes needs to be a part of the solution from the beginning, instead of a part of the problem”.

See the Exclusive Interview with Former Match-Fixer Mario Cizmek

The Croatian footballer Mario Cizmek was banned to play football back in 2010 because of his participation in match-fixing.

Cizmek didn’t get paid salary for 14 months at his former club and that led him to the easy money that match-fixing offers.

Watch the exclusive interview below and hear the footballers story.



VIDEO: Critical Sports Journalism is Wanted

The sport industry is one of the fastest growing businesses in the world. However, critical and investigative sport journalism is still a rare sight in mainstream media.

Lars Andersson is the editor in chief of the Danish online magazine Sport Executive. The magazine takes a different focus on the world of sports with stories about human rights, corruption, gender issues and child labor in sports.

Andersson is concerned about the sport reporting done by mainstream media. He is convinced that sport news today mainly serves as entertainment, while the more important aspects of the sport industry gets left out.




Get the Highlights from FIFA’s First Appearance at Play the Game Here

Walter and Andrew
Walter de Gregorio, director of communication, FIFA and Andrew Jennings, investigative journalist are talking after the session. Photo: Simon Tordrup

For the first time ever, one of the world’s most powerful sports organizations FIFA, The International Football Federation, is officially present at Play the Game.

Among the topics discussed were racism in football, governance in FIFA and the election of Russia and Qatar as hosts for the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 both elected at the same FIFA-conference.

“The problem is that if you have two World Cups to award, there can be made deals. It was a major mistake to choose both hosts at the same conference,” Walter de Gregorio, FIFA’s director of communication, said during the session.

Below you can read the live blog from the heated debate between the speakers and the crowd, among others the well-known investigative journalist Andrew Jennings.

Top Referee on Match-Fixing: Tottenham Manager Told me that I was an Honorable Man

"We keep a close eye on suspicious refereeing," Peter Mikkelsen says.  Foto: Anders V/Flickr
“We keep a close eye on suspicious refereeing,” Peter Mikkelsen says. Photo: Anders V/Flickr

Former players, experts and other stakeholders have adressed the problem of match-fixing in football during the Play The Game conference, but we are yet to hear from the key part of a football match. The referee.

Peter Mikkelsen, a former international top referee named world’s best referee in 1991 and 1993 and member of FIFA’s referee committee, is happy that the referees aren’t present.

“It’s good, because it means match-fixing isn’t a big problem for us,” the Dane claims.

Referees don’t match-fix because the money isn’t big
In 2005 Robert Hoyzer, a german referee, was the center of a big match-fixing scandal. But that’s a quite rare situation, according to Mikkelsen.

“We don’t experience any problems with match-fixing and we don’t discuss it in FIFA, because it’s not a problem.”

“Of course we will act, if there’s a problem. The referees are not professional as the players are and they have civilian jobs. I think, that’s why we don’t see referees fixing matches,” says Mikkelsen.

The closest thing to match-fixing came in Portugal
Mikkelsen has never experienced match-fixing in the many, many games he refereed.

He does mention a situation in Portugal in a match between a local side and Tottenham Hotspur. The home team were putting Mikkelsen in situations that were ideal for a match-fixing referee.

“I was never approached or offered anything, but the Portuguese players dived a couple of times in the box and I waved away their protests. After the game the Tottenham manager told me, that I was a very honorable man.”

“Sports organisations should be as open as possible”

Frank van Eekeren, Senior Consultant and co-researcher on the AGGIS-project, at yesterday’s Workshop – Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations. Photo: Jannik Toft Friis

The lack of good governance is without a doubt one of the biggest threats in sports. That is why transparency and openness is needed.

“All sports organisations should be as open as possible. Because that is, what transparency is all about,” Frank Van Eekeren, Senior Consultant and co-researcher on the AGGIS-project, noted Tuesday morning at the Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations workshop at PlayTheGame 2013.

Although we, in the western world, are used to transparency, not all organisations respond to the demand of openness. That is why action needs to be taken.

Crying for external pressure

If organisations refuse to cooperate, external pressure is needed.

That can happen through evidence-based research and by including the organisations and making them understand the importance of good governance. Furthermore making the organisations aware, that research to help them is being made.

“We have to make them understand, that we are not only there to shout, but also to help organisations,” says Arnout Geeraert, PhD and co-researcher on the AGGIS-project.

The EU also in the fight for good governance

The EU is also aware of the lack of transparency in sports organisations, and in recent years the have gradually joining the fight for good governance internationally.

And acoording to Morten Løkkegaard, Danish member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education, we need to force the sports organisations to be cooperative, e.g. by naming and shaming those, who neglect democracy and transparency.

The Danish point of view:

Tuesday at the conference, we cornered the Danish editor of Play the Game Søren Bang and asked him, what he thought was the biggest threat to sport today.

See the full video here:



PtG-Participants: The Best Fun so Far

After a long day with intense debates and discussions the participants at Play the Game 2013 had the opportunity to go and get some excercise in Aarhus Tuesday evening.

Basketball, badminton and soccer was some of the most popular sports and the participants really enjoyed the break away from the conference.

Check out some of the highlights from last night in the video below.




“IOC’s choice of Olympic Hosts is Unacceptable”

“You could just demand a good, clear code-compliant program before you award the games. Otherwise, you don’t do it,” says Herman Ram, director of the Dutch anti-doping authority. Photo: Arnela Muminovic

When Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 2016 will be hosting the Olympic Games, it is a result of bad judgement of IOC.

That is the message from Herman Ram, director of the Dutch anti-doping authority. Along with Russia, who will host the Olympic Winter Games shortly, Brazil is one of the main concerns, Ram says.

“I think it is unacceptable that the IOC has decided to choose those countries who at that point in time already were completely non-compliant and had actually plans, but they were only there on paper,” Herman Ram says.

No games without better anti-doping effort

All though other smaller countries may have bigger problems in the fight against doping, the Dutch director sees the biggest threats in Brazil and Russia.

Herman Ram puts the label “disaster” on Brazil’s fight against doping. He also blames IOC for not putting more pressure on the countries on the anti-doping question.

“You could just demand a good, clear code-compliant program before you award the games. Otherwise, you don’t do it,” Herman Ram says.

This is not a money issue

He further argues that it isn’t that costly to improve the anti-doping effort. He estimates that 10 percent of the budget for the 2016 games in Brazil would bring the effort to a more satisfying level.

“In the end, this is not a money issue. IOC could choose the financially most feasible candidate, and at the same time tackle the anti-doping issues,” Hermad Ram says and adds: “If they wanted.”

Rio de Janeiro won the final round of voting with 66 votes against Madrid’s 32.