Interview: ESSA concerned over Fifa fraud probe

Interview: ESSA concerned over Fifa fraud probe

Monday, June 15, 2015
Mike O'Kane has welcomed the European Parliament's motion

One of Europe’s major gambling industry bodies says that sports fraud is a key concern in the light of accusations connected to football’s regulatory body, Fifa.

ESSA, whose members include many of the world’s biggest gambling companies, has backed the European Parliament’s motion for a resolution promoting the adoption of good governance practices in sport to protect it from the adverse impacts of corruption and fraud, including money laundering and match-fixing.

The Parliament acted at the end of last week after allegations that corruption has been commonplace, not least in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively.

A US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been launched, with arrests made of senior officials in recent weeks, and ESSA is concerned that bad governance can lead to further issues within sport.

ESSA chairman Mike O’Kane welcomed the European Parliament’s stand against corruption in sport and the associated negative impacts on regulated betting companies and consumers who are the victims of related fraud such as match-fixing.

“ESSA has campaigned for some years on the importance of establishing transparent and accountable governance in sport as a fundamental measure to protect the integrity of sporting events,” O’Kane said.

“Corrupters will continue to prey on sports with poor governance and financial management structures, which is unfortunately widespread within the sector. ESSA supports the position of the European Parliament that ‘if not addressed urgently and properly, corruption may continue to undermine trust in sports institutions and threaten the integrity of sport as a whole’ and will also continue to weaken the fight against match-fixers.”

In a discussion on Thursday, MEPs called for a zero-tolerance policy on corruption in football, underlining that in-depth structural reforms within the organisation are now urgently needed.

The Parliament also welcomed Sepp Blatter's resignation as FIFA president and called on the federation to select an interim leader to replace him. Fifa should put in place a transparent, balanced and democratic decision-making process, including for the election of the new president, added the resolution, which was passed by a show of hands.

Meanwhile, Fifa’s position in relation to match-fixing has also been undermined after international criminal police force Interpol said it would end the use of funds provided by the organisation due to the FBI investigation.

In 2011 Fifa entered into a partnership with Interpol as part of a joint effort to combat corruption in sport, donating €20m ($22.4m) to enable the creation of a 10-year ‘Integrity in Sport’ programme.

The initiative was designed to help Interpol’s various member countries around the world prevent the manipulation of sporting events and illegal gambling by criminal groups.

However, a clause in the contract said that “the Funding Party declares notably that its activities are compatible with the principles, aims and activities of Interpol”.

“In light of the current context surrounding Fifa, while Interpol is still committed to developing our Integrity in Sport programme, I have decided to suspend the agreement,” Stock said. “All external partners, whether public or private, must share the fundamental values and principles of the organisation, as well as those of the wider law enforcement community."

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