The Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) acting president, Zhang Jilong, has warned the “cancer” of match-fixing is a “pandemic” which cannot be tackled by one organisation alone.
Zhang was speaking as the AFC and Interpol began a two-day seminar addressing the issue in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. The seminar is taking place after Europol, the European Union’s joint police body, revealed earlier this month that a total of 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals from more than 15 countries are suspected of having been involved in attempts to fix more than 380 professional football matches in Europe alone. The activities formed part of a sophisticated organised crime operation, which generated over Eur8 million in betting profits and involved over Eur2 million in corrupt payments to those involved in the matches. Europol said that the organised criminal group behind most of these activities has been betting primarily on the Asian market. The ringleaders are of Asian origin, working closely together with European facilitators.
Asian football has borne witness to a number of high-profile cases in South Korea, China and Malaysia in recent times, with the issue coming to the fore again this week as the Chinese Football Association (CFA) handed out a raft of punishments following a three-year investigation into a major match-fixing scandal. Zhang said cooperation is needed in order to tackle the problem. “We are ready to work hand in hand to eradicate this cancer from the game,” he said, according to Reuters. “Match-fixing is too complicated and widespread for one organisation to fight it alone. No continent is now left untouched by this disease. Match-fixing is now a pandemic in the world football.” He continued: “I can assure this conference that AFC will not rest until this blot is completely stamped out in Asia. We need to understand how match-fixing works in order to prevent it. We need more information on how crime syndicates operate. We want the result of a match to be beyond the shred of a doubt and we will do everything possible to make this happen.”
The lack of arrests in the global match-fixing case, which has been reported on in Singapore newspapers for years, have led to criticism but FIFA director of security Ralf Mutschke said that the issue was above its jurisdiction. “This is a question basically for law enforcement on one side and a problem which politicians have to solve,” he said at the conference. “This is a criminal case. It has nothing to do with our responsibility.”