Kuala Lumpur – Football authorities vowed to excise the “cancer” of match-fixing, but said Wednesday tougher laws were needed worldwide to protect the bruised integrity of the world's most popular sport.
Fifa director of security Ralk Mutschke told a two-day gathering with Interpol that the world governing body's “zero tolerance” for match-fixing needs to be helped by “the right policies for law enforcement and the football community”.
The meeting comes following revelations a fortnight ago that almost 700 matches worldwide, including Champions League ties and World Cup qualifiers, were targeted by gambling gangs.
“We are banning players and referees for life but criminals are out there free – they get no sentence. That's wrong,” he told reporters when asked to comment on Singapore's refusal to arrest a key suspect wanted in Italy suspected of rigging games.
“We have to bring in governments to change legislation and laws. Many countries do not have laws to fight match manipulation,” Mutschke said.
He pointed to the November acquittal of three players in Switzerland accused of committing fraud by throwing games, where a judge said there was no obvious victim.
Mutschke said Fifa was cooperating with the Council of Europe to draft legislation to fight match-fixing, with hopes it would be implemented across the continent.
Fifa's legal team will also press the case at a May meeting of national sports ministers in Berlin where match-fixing is due to be discussed, he added.
About 150 delegates from Asian football associations, player and referee representatives, as well as government agencies, are meeting in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, home to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
“We are ready to eradicate this cancer from the game. AFC will not rest until this plague is completely stopped in Asia,” the AFC's acting president Zhang Jilong said in a speech.
But he later admitted to AFP that eradication “could be difficult, especially in Asia”, where gambling is widespread and flourishing.
According to Europol, 380 suspicious match results have been identified in Europe, among nearly 700 worldwide, with the problem tied to a criminal syndicate based in Singapore.
Police in Singapore are calling for hard evidence before acting against Dan Tan Seet Eng, a Singaporean citizen whose name has cropped up in probes across several countries. – Sapa-AFP