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03 June 2023

Players could pay 'ultimate price' for match-fixing - FIFA

By Reuters

Soccer's governing body FIFA is concerned for the safety of players who are approached by match-fixers, warning that they could pay the "ultimate price" for involvement, security chief Chris Eaton said Tuesday. 

Eaton added that inadequate and incoherent international legislation was hampering the fight against match-fixers. 

With FIFA due to open a hotline for whistleblowers in February and offer a temporary amnesty for players who own up to match-fixing but come forward with evidence, Eaton said 2012 would be a fundamental year. 

High-profile cases have hit Turkey and Italy while FIFA is still trying to contact the referee of last year's friendly between Nigeria and Argentina, believing it could have been manipulated. 

In South Korea, nearly 50 players were arrested last year in connection with the worst scandal to hit the 28-year-old league, prompting government threats of a K-League shutdown. 

The former coach of South Korean club Sangmu Phoenix was found dead in October in an apparent suicide, three months after being charged as part of the probe. 

"We are very concerned about the safety of players (and) officials," Eaton told reporters. "There is anecdotal evidence that some players have been killed." 

"We have evidence of players in South Korea committing suicide because of the shame of match fixing. There are players who pay the ultimate price for resisting or for the shame of match-fixing. 

"That's why its incumbent on FIFA and global society to limit access of criminals to it. We certainly have information in some parts of the world...of threats to players who have come forward. 

"Most are indicating they are under some form of threat; often these are players are under the control of a senior player, or captain, or technical coach, and these are the people we need to support." 

However, Eaton said he did not envisage any danger to Italian second division defender Simone Farina who has been paraded as an example by FIFA after refusing a 200,000-euro ($261,300) offer to fix an Italian Cup match between Cesena and his club Gubbio in November. 

"He displayed model behaviour for young players, he resisted significant money to fix what many players would consider an unimportant fixture," said Eaton, adding that Farina's high profile would protect him from danger. 

Eaton said a co-ordinated approach among governments was needed, pointing out that Singapore national Wilson Raj Perumal had received only a two-year prison sentence in Finland for a match-fixing scandal. 

Perumal paid players up to 20,000 euros per match and received up to 50,000 euros, in addition to some of the betting profits, each time the results of the Rovaniemi team were fixed. 

"Wilson Perumal got the maximum penalty under inadequate legislation of two years," said Eaton. 

"Had he been caught in Australia, which has very strong match-fixing legislation, he would have got 10 years. This needs to be addressed." 
He said governments should be concerned about the threat of match-fixing. 

"Match-fixing is all about stealing money, it destroys the lives and careers of many people. Governments should be interested, because the amount of money is truly staggering. 

"What are those criminal organisations doing? They are spending it on other criminal activities, they use money for power and power escalation. 

"Unfortunately, because of the very nature, they can very quickly accumulate a large amount of money." 

Eaton said he still wanted to meet Niger referee Ibrahim Chaibou who awarded two controversial penalties in the Nigeria-Argentina match last June. 

"He's high-profile, his name has been suggested in a lot of matches, I have tried to meet him several times, he has resisted," said Eaton.