'Complacent' England must wake up to match-fixing - global corruption investigator

Chris Eaton, the sports integrity director at the International Centre for Sports Security, believes "cocky self-confidence" in the game has allowed for corruption
By Julian Bennetts

English football has been "complacent" about the threat of match-fixing and must use the arrests made on Wednesday as a wake-up call that will shock them into action, according to global corruption investigator and ex-Fifa chief Chris Eaton.

Six men were arrested by the National Crime Agency following an undercover investigation by the Daily Telegraph, with three of them said to be footballers.

The matches that are under suspicion are reported to have been at non-league level but Eaton believes this could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Eaton is the sports integrity director at the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS), a Doha-based not-for-profit organisation set up in 2010 to "work with all those responsible for sport safety, security and integrity", which counts governments and sport associations among its clients.

As such he is considered to be football's 'chief policeman' with this role following a 30-year career in the Australian police force, Fifa's security adviser for the 2010 World Cup and then Fifa's full-time head of security, during which time he set up the federation's anti match-fixing and criminal behaviour programme.

But Eaton's hopes these stunning revelations will shock football into action despite his fears that match-fixing is 'endemic' in the sport.

"Everyone really knew that match fixing is endemic in football," Eaton told Goal.

"I this case there is nothing new in terms of the corrupting method, it's internationality or in the core betting fraud purpose.

"What is new is that it shocks a complacent England, the home of the game. That shock should be used to galvanise International efforts to regulate and supervise sport betting globally, which is the real motivation for modern match fixing."

And Eaton believes it was inevitable England would be caught up in match-fixing - something he warned about when four Englishmen were among 10 charged with match-fixing in Australia. Those involved were playing for Melbourne's Southern Stars but had previously represented AFC Hornchurch and Eastbourne Borough.

But now he believes the time is right for football administrators and the government to work together on the issue.

Eaton added: "It was only a matter of time before the English game was caught up in this global wave of match fixing in football.

"The arrests in Australia of English journeyman footballers several months ago was a recent wake-up call.

"The truly shocking thing is that when you read the reports and hear the recorded conversations in this case, it confirms that these fixers are really amateur, unsophisticated criminals. 

"Their cocky self-confidence can only come from not being seriously tackled in the past.  That they got away with it for so long in so many places in the world speaks more to the general naïveté in football and to the lax supervision of criminally targeted people in football, like players and referees.

"But this new disclosure must be put in global context.  Governments and football administrations must not react emotionally, but coolly and rationally.

"Strategically, governments must tackle the right enemy, betting fraud. Clearly International sport, especially football, is in serious trouble with corruption of its competitions."