'War' on match-fixing works

'War' on match-fixing works
The English Football Association’s director of football governance and regulation Darren Bailey at the Sports Matters conference at Marina Bay Sands.

Over the years, the spectre of match-fixing has grown even more menacing in the global football landscape, but the English Football Association (FA) is confident it can deal with the scourge.

Darren Bailey, the FA's director of football governance and regulation, says the regulatory body is relying on legislation, national and international monitoring, and an aggressive educational campaign to minimise the temptation of players and officials - at all levels of the game in England - to influence matches illegally.

"It's about communicating very clearly why the bottom line (in English football) is so good, and it is because people believe in the game," he told The New Paper, on the sidelines of the two-day Sports Matters conference at the Marina Bay Sands yesterday.

"If you start to play fast and loose with the game's integrity, then the financial dimension will go out the window.

"You have a collective responsibility to your fellow colleagues not to do anything that brings it into disrepute. We feel it is working."

He pointed to former Italian player Simone Farina as a shining example of the campaign.

Farina, now an Aston Villa academy coach, played a key role in stopping a match-fixing attempt in 2011 while playing for Serie B club Gubbio - his evidence leading to the arrest of 17 people.

Bailey revealed that his 40-strong department is working on various topics - including inclusivity, crowd issues and safety - to preserve the Beautiful Game's integrity in England.

While clubs in other countries may delay paying players' salaries, the financial structure of the English game is "quite tight" and minimises the temptation and pressure for one to resort to crime for money.

Also, strong players' unions in the country provide the welfare systems for footballers to seek help when they are in trouble.

If these systems fail, the authorities can fall back on tough monitoring and legislation - the FA outlawed all football-related betting for all club players and officials at the start of the season.

Bailey added the FA has measures in place to detect suspicious betting patterns in England, as well as overseas - a warning sign that a match may have been compromised.

Echoing FA general secretary Alex Horne's comments earlier this year, Bailey dismissed suggestions that match-fixing is a growing problem in football, referring to the "robust" system that England already has, as well as the "collective responsibility" that his department is trying to drum into players, officials and spectators alike.

This, despite the fact there were several arrests and prosecutions for match-fixing in English semi-professional football last season.

Bailey said: "We are not complacent, but I think we are best-placed to prevent it (match-fixing). If it happens, we are in the best place to enforce it robustly."

This article was first published on Sep 18, 2014.
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