KUALA LUMPUR: Match-fixing and betting have long tainted the beautiful game, and Malaysia has certainly not been spared this scourge.
However, there's good news for the hundreds of thousands of fans devoted to the No 1 sport in the country.
The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has received the go-ahead to introduce FIFA's Early Warning System (EWS) to monitor irregular betting patterns in the M-League, which resumes in August.
Football's governing body has even agreed to provide FAM with the system, which has been used at the FIFA World Cup level, at no charge.
EWS looks at protecting football matches by monitoring and analysing the international sports betting market and through comprehensive reporting to FIFA.
"We have been proactive in combating match-fixing and it's a massive boost to have FIFA agreeing to provide FAM with the EWS," said Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) chief executive officer Kevin Ramalingam.
FMLLP is a private independent entity which runs the M-League.
The EWS, Ramalingam said, would be an effective tool for FAM to curb match-fixing.
"This monitoring is not cheap, so getting it for free will be a big help. Besides the monitoring system, we have also set very strict rules and guidelines.
"Teams which fail to meet these guidelines will not be given the licence to play in the M-League," he told The Star.
Malaysian football was ruined by match-fixing in the 1993-1994 season, leading to FAM banning 84 players nationwide in 1994.
Some of the offenders were banished under the Restricted Residence Act while others were suspended from playing.
The effects of the ban, which was finally lifted on May 9, is still being felt. Malaysia is now at a lowly 174 in the FIFA world ranking, its worst position ever.
In 2010, FAM set up an integrity committee comprising senior officials from the police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to tackle corruption and match-fixing.
The association also ordered its state affiliates to set up a coordination and integrity unit which works with the authorities to monitor and investigate claims of match-fixing.
Two years ago, it was made compulsory for players, team officials and referees in the M-League to declare their assets.
It is now much harder to fix matches. To prevent bookies from getting to players and blocking other external influences, even handphones are barred from the technical area during matches.
Even flamboyant cosmetics tycoon Datuk Seri Dr Hasmiza Othman, who is sponsoring the Kelantan team, was not spared from the ruling when she was recently warned by FMLLP that her licence to enter the technical area would be revoked if she used her mobile phone.