The European Commission has earmarked an education and prevention
programme called “Don’t fix it” developed by FIFPro and supported by UEFA. The
objective of this initiative is to raise awareness of the dangers of match-fixing among
players, referees, officials, administrators and public authorities.
In the past few years, the football world has realized that match fixing is one of the biggest threats to the game, maybe even its biggest threat. It is not solely a problem of individual countries, as recent reports and incidents have proven that match fixing is widespread in numerous nations on all continents: from Finland to Zimbabwe, from Malaysia to Italy.
In FIFPro’s opinion, one of the ways to reduce the incidence of match fixing and the potential for match fixing in football is education of the players: the campaigns need to be taken into the dressing rooms of the clubs. Therefore, the worldwide footballers’ association has initiated a project with Birkbeck, University of London. The project is called Don’t Fix It.
The specific aims of the project are:
- To significantly raise awareness of the dangers of match fixing among players, referees, officials, administrators, organisations, and public authorities and to raise the ability of those involved in professional football to take effective action against match fixing.
- To improve the structural environment of professional football and reduce the conditions that lead to match fixing. Conditions include workplace bullying, harassment and intimidation, poor reporting mechanisms, inconsistent standards of conduct, and lack of expertise and knowledge among key football bodies and public authorities.
- To establish strong and relevant networks at national and European levels to take the lead in the fight against match fixing.
Birkbeck University will develop an education module based on the outcome of an in-depth academic research among professional footballers, to better understand the factors that lead to match fixing. The research will build on the FIFPro Black Book, that the worldwide players union presented in February this year.
Together with Birkbeck University, FIFPro will develop an online reporting mechanism that enables players, referees, officials and administrators to anonymously report suspected incidents of bullying, intimidation, harassment, and inappropriate approaches made to them to fix matches. This reporting mechanism will be aimed at 12,000 players and a total of approximately 20,000 individuals who may be at risk.
The Don’t Fix It project will be launched in nine European countries with the assistance of national players’ associations: England, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Romania, Scotland and Slovenia. Once the programme has been fully established, FIFPro expects that other countries will be able to join the Don’t Fix It project.
In each of the nine project countries, so called focal points will be established, consisting of representatives of the players, referees, officials/administrators and public authority. They will report to a European Task Force Committee made up of representatives from FIFPro UEFA, Europol and the Joint Committees. This must lead to a strong network with people dedicated to the fight against match fixing.
Finally, FIFPro and UEFA will develop a joint Code of Conduct against match fixing, which will be implemented and monitored.
The Good Practice Guide
The Good Practice Guide – designed to help professional football players’ associations play their part in efforts to protect their members and to protect football from match-fixing and other threats to integrity – is one of the many results of the Don’t Fix It project, which has proved a fruitful collaboration. In several participating countries, strong networks have been set up, consisting of representatives of the players, referees, officials/administrators and public authority.
Tony Higgins, chair of the Don’t Fix It project and FIFPro Division Europe Vice-President, said: “The consultation with our members has proved immensely valuable and will inform our FIFPro members about the extent of the problem and how the football family should respond.”
More than fifty representatives of players’ association, football associations, referees and public authority from eight participating countries will attend the Don’t Fix It closing conference as well as representatives of the most important stakeholders in European professional football. Among the issues on the agenda are presentations of renowned international match-fixing experts, such as representatives of Europol, Interpol, Sporting Chance Clinic and Transparency International.
THE MAIN LESSONS FROM THE DON’T FIX IT RESEARCH:
- All countries are susceptible to match-fixing or other threats to integrity such as betting against the rules or sharing inside information.
- Threats to integrity take different forms in each country. Although there will be some similarities and overlaps, the profile of threats to integrity is best understood at a national level.
- Solutions to match-fixing are best developed at a local level. This allows players, referees and club officials to respond to local needs and conditions. ‘One size fits all’ solutions are not the answer.
- Co-operation and investment is essential at national and international levels on the part of law enforcement agencies, Governments and football authorities.
- Match-fixing involves complex sets of behaviours on the part of different actors with many motivations and incentives. Solutions need to be equally sophisticated in tackling these behaviours.
- Match-fixing will be best prevented using a holistic approach that addresses the economic, social and cultural conditions that give rise to match-fixing, and the establishment of clear rules on betting and match-fixing, but which also appeals to personal ethics and players’ future.
- Player education needs to be tailored specifically to the threats that pertain in the country concerned and delivered by people that players know and trust. Good role models who can offer a positive vision for players’ future is important in education programmes.
- Reporting mechanisms are important but should not be overstated as a solution. Multiple avenues and means of reporting suspicions and approaches are likely to be most effective.