With the World Cup in Brazil just days away, the European soccer (or football, depending on your country’s designation) industry is up in arms over the actions of a little-known Belgian sports integrity firm called Federbet.
In a presentation to the European Parliament this week, Federbet made claims about widespread match-fixing across several European leagues, accusations which have been slammed by sporting bodies, as well as the French and Italian gambling regulators, as being completely unfounded.
While soccer does have some genuine concerns about attempts by East Asian gambling syndicates to fix certain aspects of games, often in the lower leagues, perplexity was spreading this week about the evidence – or lack thereof – of Federbet’s claims.
The leagues already use sophisticated technology that monitors and analyzes global betting markets and rely on the cooperation of betting firms around the world to report any suspicious activity they uncover. Furthermore, while Federbet claims to represent 400 partners from the gaming industry, its website fails to mention any names and it appears that few people within the industry had heard of them until this week.
England’s Football Conference was quick to respond to claims that ten matches had been fixed recently in its leagues: “At this time there is no evidence that any of the fixtures specifically listed by Federbet, relating to our competition, have been the subject of report or investigation,” it said. “Therefore we are at a loss to understand what evidence may exist for Federbet to make such claims.
“Furthermore, as part of the robust monitoring system employed in England, such liaison is conducted in conjunction with the Gambling Commission, leading betting companies and other agencies appointed by the Football Association,” it added.
Meanwhile, one of the teams accused of participating in a fixed game, Connah’s Quay Nomads, had this to say: “We read with absolute amazement the claims that a match involving gap Connah’s Quay Nomads and Bala Town was subject to a match fixing investigation. We deny all knowledge of any allegations and welcome any further information that justifies such a claim.”
In an interview with Gaming Intelligence, Khalid Ali – the secretary general of the European Sports Security Association (ESSA) – which works with over 20 major sports bodies, including FIFA, to root out corruption, was even more scathing.
Organization “Steeped in Secrecy”
“No one within the European regulated betting industry is aware of who Federbet are or what they represent… They appear to be an organization steeped in secrecy… Establishing corruption is a multi-sector partnership activity involving a widely understood protocol with sporting bodies and regulatory authorities which Federbet is ignoring. Only in co-operation with those other stakeholders can full and proper investigations take place which can then determine whether corruption has occurred… Promoting unfounded allegations can wreck careers and the confidence in both betting markets and sporting events with serious economic impacts… It is not often that you see such a range of differing stakeholders challenging an organization’s position in this fashion and that is telling in itself, ” said Ali.
It’s difficult to know whether Federbet is merely trying to steal some publicity in build up to the World Cup or is actually a well-meaning but misguided organization. However, in response to the criticism, the company posted the following message, in French, on its website.
“We are surprised by statements from the LFP (French Football League) and ARJEL (French gambling regulator) condemning us in the press. However, the objective is, and must remain, the fight against fraud and corruption. This fight cannot be completed without all of us moving in the same direction.”