FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, is one organization ready to get 2015 behind them, a scandalous year headlined by the corruption case unraveling in May that indicted 14 soccer officials and led to the announcement of President Sepp Blatter’s future resignation.
The organization was accused by US Attorney General Lynch of accepting $150 million in bribes over more than two decades and charged with money laundering, racketeering, and wire fraud.
The revelation highlighted the need of a complete overhaul of soccer’s governing authority, and the first step in that long process was taken this week as FIFA announced a partnership with Perform Group, a UK-based sports content firm that will oversee efforts to enhance the integrity of the game.
“This cooperation with a leading sports data service provider is a perfect fit for our monitoring approach to ensure an effective and fact-based match analysis,” Ralf Mutschke, FIFA security director said in a press release. “Perform is a very strong partner in the global fight against match manipulation, and such cooperation represents a fundamental keystone of our overall strategy.”
FIFA EWS FYI
Perform will work closely with FIFA’s Early Warning System (EWS), the prevention, risk management and information-gathering arm of the organization.
Promoted as independent from the association’s leadership, EWS is responsible for examining wagering traffic, the leading sign in a football match being influenced or fixed.
The agreement between FIFA and Perform is largely due to Opta, the latter’s sports software company that collects and analyzes data in real time. According to FIFA, the service will “optimize the detection and analysis of suspicious activities in sports betting.”
Opta is already used by many soccer governing bodies including Major League Soccer in the United States, as well as many premiere clubs including Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea.
Online, sportsbooks such as Paddy Power, William Hill, and Ladbrokes all come backed by Opta.
“We are delighted that Perform digital content can so readily be used in partnership with rights holders in order to strengthen the integrity of competitions,” Matthew Drew, Perform director of integrity and security said. “We look forward to cooperating with EWS for the benefit of FIFA competitions and those of its associations and confederations for a long time to come.”
One Eye Open, One Eye Shut
Filled with fraud and corruption, soccer’s leading body responsible for the World Cup and 209 national member associations has more closely resembled that of a criminal enterprise than non-profit company.
While FIFA’s crusade to combat match fixing is certainly commendable, many soccer fans would like to see more safeguards placed on the organization itself, starting with finding a qualified and honest presidential candidate to replace the outgoing Blatter.
A leading candidate to replace Blatter is Dr. Chung Mong-joon, however FIFA announced this week it’s investigating whether the South Korean businessman made questionable financial transactions totaling $900,000 to Pakistan and Haiti.
Mong-joon denies any wrongdoings, saying the money was donated to charities following the 2010 earthquakes in each country.
Blatter and Mong-joon are fierce foes, with the FIFA investigation being labeled as a “cynical and unethical effort” to hamper Mong-joon’s chances at the presidency by his supporters.
Secrecy and scandal surrounds FIFA, but one thing is clear: FIFA needs a red card.