Monday, 4 March 2013

The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game

The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the revelation (at the Interpol/AFC Conference on match-fixing) that ‘match-manipulation’ is now a world-wide pandemic organized by international crime syndicates, was that not one of the 150 delegates were actually shocked. That’s a terrible indictment and simply illustrates how far the ‘cancer’ has spread.

It sickens me that sport, for it is not just football that is sadly afflicted, has become a target for the cowardly cheating parasites who seek to gain illicit and quick fortunes from something that honest people hold dear. At the heart of sport and fundamental to its essence, is purity of competition. Without it, sport is utterly worthless. Millions of decent people spend millions of dollars of hard-earned money to watch sport in the belief that they are witnessing something true, clean and genuine. The people that seek to undermine that principle are beneath contempt. If I didn’t find them repugnant and morally bankrupt, I would actually pity them.

The Conference concluded that only a concerted, global and coordinated response will combat this plague. Depressingly it is also clear that total eradication will be difficult, particularly in Asia.

There are many well-publicised and high profile cases involving the discovery and subsequent punishment of players, coaches, officials and administrators including some in Hong Kong! This is simply dealing with the symptom and not the cause, because the main perpetrators, the ‘fixers’ are never brought to justice. They evade retribution and disappear only to raise their despicable faces somewhere else. This is because most Governments have no specific laws relating to match-manipulation. Furthermore it is often seen as a victimless crime, and due to the use of global technology the offence is difficult to detect, and usually committed outside the local jurisdiction.  

There is no room for complacency in Hong Kong, in fact quite the opposite. ‘Fixers’ often target ‘new’ Leagues and particularly in places where players, coaches and officials are seen as ‘vulnerable’ due to relatively low wage levels.

FIFA advocates a zero-tolerance approach and so must we. And not just in terms of the rhetoric we use. In my opinion, anyone found guilty of match-manipulation at any level must be severely sanctioned including life-time, world-wide bans from involvement in football. I will be making this recommendation as part of plans for the new Premier League. I will also be seeking the cooperation of the football community (clubs, players, officials etc) together with the Government, the ICAC, the Police and other stakeholders in upholding the integrity of football and stamping out the evil that threatens the game we love.






表面看似香港這個彈丸之地「無利可圖」,但情況卻恰恰相反,幕後黑手或以「新興」聯賽來尋求下手目標,在收入相對較低的情況下,部分球員、教練以至相關職員可能抵受不住誘惑而以身犯險,從事非法活動。國際足聯 (FIFA)倡議的零容忍政策,同樣適用於本港球圈人士的身上。我建議任何人不論牽涉多少的非法利益,但凡從事「非法操控比賽」的行為,一經判罪,除了必須受到法律制裁外,亦建議讓他們終身禁賽、全球禁賽或永久禁止踏入球圈半步。我已將這動議納入新聯賽的計劃中,同時將與本港球壇通力合作(包括球會、球員及相關人員等),並與政府、廉政公署、警方和其他股東謀求共識,全力將球壇上的壞分子一網打盡!

Outcome Statement

Kuala Lumpur, 21 February 2013

‘Match-fixing: The ugly side of the beautiful game’
An international conference for representatives from national Asian Football Associations and law enforcement

A two-day international conference focusing upon enhancing the prevention and investigation of match-fixing in football was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 20 and 21 February 2013.

The conference was organized by INTERPOL within the framework of the INTERPOL-FIFA Training, Education and Prevention Initiative, with the active support of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA.

Some 170 delegates from more than 40 countries and 10 international organizations came together in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the threats posed to football by match-fixing and ways to further improve its prevention and investigation. Delegates included officials from international organizations including FIFA, AFC, FIFPro, SportAccord and INTERPOL, senior representatives from national football associations, players representatives, betting organizations and law enforcement.

During the conference, speakers looked at current and anticipated future trends in match-fixing, the impact development in betting markets are having, and the adverse influence organized crime has on football. In addition, ways of enhancing good governance in the football family, the importance of protecting players, and initiatives in training, education, prevention and investigation were highlighted.

The conference recognized the challenge posed by match-fixing in many countries in Asia. It noted with concern the involvement of organized crime and professional criminals in match-fixing and associated illegal activities, including irregular betting.

The conference also recognized that match-fixing is a global issue having a negative effect upon football, its participants and the general public who watch sport as an entertainment in the belief that it is a fair and honest game. Match-fixing is an ‘ugly side of the beautiful game’.

Delegates welcomed recent developments to tackle match-fixing in football, both internationally and nationally, and resolved to actively support the implementation of the INTERPOL training, education and prevention programme. Representatives from FIFA and AFC also underlined their zero-tolerance stands on match-fixing.

In addition, the importance of having internationally consistent legislation regarding ‘sporting fraud’ was identified. In this regard, delegates supported examining the development of the draft convention
on the manipulation of sports being prepared by the Council of Europe. Delegates also requested consideration of approaches to combat match-fixing at MINEPS V1 to be held in Berlin in May this year.
In order to tackle match-fixing more effectively, delegates supported:

 The need to continue building effective partnerships between all the stakeholders who can contribute to the development of effective procedures at international and national levels (including football associations, law enforcement, gambling regulatory authorities, betting companies, players and referees associations and government departments);

 The importance of establishing and using information-sharing mechanisms to identify what information is required, where it can be obtained, how it can be stored, analysed and disseminated in a timely way to enable the various stakeholders to use it effectively both to prevent and investigate match-fixing;

 The development of coordination procedures, especially at the national level, to ensure that the best decisions can be made about who should take forward activities in the area of prevention and investigation of match-fixing, including the identification of national points of contact within all agencies;

 The need to develop and implement a broad range of prevention activities through education, training and support to the various different participants in football (including players, officials and administrators), especially young players;

 The importance of being proactive in both the prevention and investigation of match-fixing and irregular betting associated with football, in order to minimize its adverse effects on the game, its participants and the public.

In conclusion, delegates thanked those involved in the organization of the event and the Malaysian authorities for hosting this valuable conference.

1 World Sport Ministers Conference, Berlin, 28-30 May 2013, organized by UNESCO in cooperation with German Ministry of Interior












除此之外,有關立法監管「體育騙案」的重要性亦在會上提及,代表團表態支持由歐洲委員會(Council of Europe)草擬立例打擊非法操控球賽,同時與會代表亦考慮要求將這個議題在今年五月柏林舉行的MINEPS V1上進一步討論。







1 UNESCO主辦、德國內政部(German Ministry f Interior)協辦的World Sport Ministers Conference將於201352830日在柏林舉行。


  1. I don't understand why it is illegal to gamble HK football. But it is legal to gamble overseas football. To me, it is double standard and discrimation to HK football. This may be helpful to imput more resources and better control of Maniplating matches by legalize gambling HK football,especially if there is a premium league in the coming new year.

    1. Dear Ken,
      Thank you for your comment. The question as to whether gambling on football in Hong Kong should be legal or not is a good one as well as a very 'sensitive' one. If you asked 100 people I am sure that the answers would be very polarised into the 'yes' and 'no' camps, depending on their opinion of gambling generally - a social ill or a harmless bit of fun. Actually it is a question for the law-makers, not the Football Association.
      All I can say is that the objective evidence presented at the recent conference was that gambling on football is illegal in most Asian countries but actually there is no correlation between the extent of match-manipulation in any country and whether gambling is legal or not. In other words it will happen regardless. It can be argued therefore that making it legal won't make the situation any worse. What it would do is make it easier to regulate and the data gathered through legal betting could in fact make it easier to detect irregular betting patterns thus helping to identify match-manipulation.
      Ultimately this question is one for the politicians.

  2. You talk only about the stick but not about the carrot. There should be a financial reward for anyone who can provide evidence about match-manipulation that leads to a conviction in court.

  3. Dear Allan,
    This is a good point and one that I will raise with the appropriate authorities.

  4. You got 2 comments on this blog and 2 comments on facebook at the moment for "The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game". Don't know how you got 44 likes on this post in facebook, gotta check out who pressed those buttons. However, you still got comments coming in "The Perennial Club V Country debate". But the most meaningful posts in January are all but forgotten. This is just a simple count and it already illustrates the lack of PR effort in reaching out to the public on important issues. In one of your comments, you replied in HOPING a big crowd turnout to support the HK Rep. Don't HOPE, do something about it. Promote! Market! Rally! Reach out!

  5. Dear Mark,

    Just want to appreciate how well you and HKFA colleagues have done for the HK vs Vietnam match! Well done! We were all impressed by the improvement! And I would also like you to know that there are huge of crowd, sending their comments and hoping the next important match, HK vs UAE, can be held at MK Stadium, where you probably may agree that the atmosphere and the thrilling and huge voices from local fans made the match difference! I saw you can only stand there to watch the whole match as I guess the chairman box was full! As the local fans may not have a habit to write English and drop comments here, I just try to draw your awareness for that.

    Thank you for your leadership and we all can see the difference!


    1. Dear KK,
      Thank you for your positive comments. It is nice to know that our efforts are recognised and appreciated. It really was an amazing night. Regarding the on-pitch improvements, Coach KIM, his assistants and the players deserve all the credit, they all did magnificently. I was proud of all of them. My job is simply to provide the support and resources they need. Regarding the off-pitch improvements, I must praise our Competitions and Marketing Teams, they were great. Special mention too to Nike who gave us tremendous support and helped to make the night memorable.
      To be honest, I could have sat down had I wanted to but I was too excited and nervous to sit down! Besides, I grew up in England before all-seater stadiums, old habits die hard!
      I really want to thank the fans who came along and created such a fantastic atmosphere. The noise was incredible, especially when the goal went in! It was such a good feeling.
      Rest assured we will continue to do everything we can to carry on improving.
      Thanks again and Regards, Mark

  6. Something unrelated to this post...
    I would like to see the next asian cup qualifiers to be played in mk stadium.
    It is because:
    1.the geographical location,hk stadium is inconvenient
    2.the atmosphere,mk stadium is loud and perfect for the game
    3.the pitch is smaller,which benefits hk team

    1. Dear Jamie,
      A few months ago if someone had told me that we would fill Mong Kok stadium for a representative team match, I wouldn't have believed them. It just goes to show what can be achieved with some good performances on the pitch and some marketing and PR.
      I agree, it is a great little stadium, accessible, compact and atmospheric.
      However, I was disappointed for the fans that couldn't get in on the night.
      If we carry on getting more successful, there will come a time when we will outgrow Mong Kok because demand will seriously outstrip supply.
      We will announce the venue for the next competitive match as soon as we can.