Match-fixing ‘not a big issue’, says FA chief

Alex Horne, left, warned against complacency. Picture: Getty
Alex Horne, left, warned against complacency. Picture: Getty
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The Football Association’s general secretary, Alex Horne, has insisted that match-fixing is not widespread, but has warned against complacency.

Mr Horne was among representatives from five sports – football, cricket, tennis and the two rugby codes – who attended a summit with ministers in Whitehall yesterday morning for talks on tackling fixing.

The sports agreed to consider setting up a hotline for players from all sports to report approaches or give information. Currently, the sports each have their own reporting systems.

The summit followed the arrest of six people, including Blackburn Rovers striker DJ Campbell, following an investigation into “spot-fixing” in football by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Mr Horne, who was at the meeting with Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Maria Miller, said the “general consensus” was that fixing was not a widespread problem. Representatives from the English Premier League, Football League and British Horse-racing Authority were also present.

Mr Horne insisted, however, that the FA took the issue seriously and would study measures against fixing already in place in cricket and horse-racing. He said after the meeting: “I think the general consensus around the room was this isn’t a big issue. The intelligence that we have says this isn’t a wide-scale issue at the moment but, again, we don’t want to be complacent.”

He added: “We don’t want to see this in our sport and, therefore, we are doing everything we can. We are looking at all measures we can across sport, but also with the agencies.

“We really welcome the recent impetus from the NCA. I think that is going to be a really important body for all of us in reminding people that these are criminal activities and the criminal nature of activities shouldn’t be underestimated, and all power to the NCA.”

Some of the sports pressed ministers for a change to the law to make match-fixing itself a criminal offence, rather than police having to rely on bringing charges for fraud or other offences. It is understood, however, that the government believes the law is working well, with the NCA making arrests and bringing charges.

Ms Miller said there had been a commitment from all the sports to work together and learn from each other, both in terms of educating players and reporting fixing.

She said: “Match-fixing is a real threat to the integrity of sport. If fans don’t trust what they see, the integrity of sport will be permanently damaged.

“I asked the major sports to come in today to discuss what more can be done to tackle this. It was a very constructive meeting on a serious issue and there was a clear commitment from all to work together and see what more can be done.”

Former Fifa security chief Chris Eaton, who now works for the International Centre for Sport Security, said Uefa and Fifa have both been pushing for match-fixing to be made a criminal offence and that governments across the world needed to bring in controls on sports betting in the same way they did for share dealing and currency deals.

He said: “If you stop the cash going out to betting fraud, then the match-fixing will dry up.”