Federbet, the Belgian-based integrity body which claimed last season 110 matches were identified as having been fixed, with suspicions over a further 350, has been widely criticised by both sporting and gambling organisations.
French regulator ARJEL issued a joint statement with the French Football League (LFP) decrying the claims. It said: “ARJEL and LFP cannot agree with the statements that were made on a lack of control of regulatory authorities and sports organisations in France to fight against sports manipulations. These claims are unfounded.”
The UK’s Football Conference is also annoyed at Federbet’s actions: “The Football Conference works closely with the Football Association on all matters concerning integrity within our sport. This relationship with the Football Association includes liaison around any suspicious betting activity or patterns. 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.
“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. Therefore we are at a loss to understand what evidence may exist for Federbet to make such claims? Federbet has not consulted with the Football Conference about making such alleged information public.”
One of the biggest criticisms has come from sports security body ESSA. Secretary General Khalid Ali commented: “No one within the European regulated betting industry is aware of who Federbet are or what they represent; they claim to have 400 members but they haven’t been listed on their website. They appear to be an organisation steeped in secrecy.
“At ESSA we have been working closely with national and transnational policy bodies such as the European Commission and Council of Europe on match-fixing for some time. ESSA members employ sophisticated internal security mechanisms to identify suspicious betting patterns and which importantly includes essential transactional data on who is betting on what, where and when. Whereas, Federbet appears to be primarily using betting odds movements as the principal means of detecting match-fixing. That approach is not conclusive and prone to false results.”
O’Kane said that it was important to remember that betting irregularities do not necessarily equate to corruption as ESSA’s latest figures list 148 alerts which after detailed examination led to 30 suspicious cases. He added: “Furthermore, 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. ESSA has information sharing agreements with over 20 major sports bodies, such as FIFA and the IOC, as well as a number of national gambling regulators. This partnership approach has been particularly successful in driving the corruptors away from regulated markets, creating a safe and secure environment for customers.”
O’Kane said that ESSA’s central aim is assisting in the detection, deterrent and punishing corruption, but said it must be based on firm evidence and thorough investigations. “Promoting unfounded allegations can wreck careers and the confidence in both betting markets and sporting events with serious economic impacts. We are therefore very disappointed with the lack of professionalism Federbet is showing and as the comments from AAMS, ARJEL and the French La Ligue demonstrate, there are serious and widely-held concerns about the validity of the organisation’s information. It is not often that you see such a range of differing stakeholders challenging an organisation’s position in this fashion and that is telling in itself.”