Soccer graft buster calls for political will in China to combat match-fixing

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 January, 2014, 5:42am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 January, 2014, 5:42am

China needs to show "political strength and leadership" to help the world rid soccer of the match-fixing scandals that threaten the game's future, according to Fifa's former security adviser.

Fraud buster Chris Eaton believes Chinese interests are at the heart of the problem that poses a real threat to the game's future.

And the ex-Interpol man says that while the issue is a "global one" the "principal player" is China with its huge black-market betting industry.

He said: "China either needs to legalise and regulate sport betting or aggressively police and disrupt the illegal market. And Chinese police need to join forces with regional and international police to share intelligence on match-fixers and betting fraudsters."

"It needs political strength and leadership for which the world of sport would be eternally grateful."

Only last weekend a Chinese national was spoken to at the Coventry vs Crawley game in England's League One. The man, who was understood to be from the mainland and in the UK on a tourist visa, was seen acting suspiciously behind one of the goals. He was interviewed by the the English FA's fraud unit but released without charge.

It was thought he could have been feeding real-time information on the match, including details of corners and throw-ins, to people overseas, who were then putting instant bets back in China that could be placed before the details filtered through via official channels.

Eaton, the sports integrity director at the International Centre for Sport Security based in Qatar said: "It is highly likely there was intelligence behind this incident, which shows the threat level we are at. It is also highly likely he was connected with a planned betting fraud."

He said Chinese authorities needed to show a degree of urgency to combat the illegal-betting markets that fuel soccer corruption worldwide.

"It is true to say the totality of the problem is a global one, with China a principal player," he added. "The policing solution must first be addressed in China."

The 61 year-old ex-policemen is respected around the world for his work tackling corruption in sport and was security adviser to Fifa at the last World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

"There's been so many match-fixing scandals over the past decade or so the popularity of football in China has diminished to a point where the average fan does has lost trust in it," he said. "Now they usually place bets on matches elsewhere in Asia or Europe. Therein lies the problem as we saw last weekend.

"Few Chinese are involved in arranging match-fixing outside China, but many are involved in financing match-fixing and committing betting fraud."