Insider Sport brings you a two-part exclusive interview with Oliver Jaberg, FIFA’s deputy chief legal & compliance officer and director of integrity and institutional legal, and Vincent Ven, head of integrity.
In this first edition we discuss FIFA’s new integrity toolkit and the association’s message regarding the overall probity of the global game.
Early into 2020 FIFA, the international governing body for football, built on the integrity programme it developed and implemented during the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup by launching a new enhanced integrity toolkit.
The new capability, which features updated integrity programme resources, aims to protect the sport and provide further aid to member associations and confederations in the fight to protect national and regional-level football matches and competitions from match manipulation.
Insider Sport: How vital was the integrity programme in combating the threat of match-fixing throughout the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup?
Vincent Ven: It is very important for us as both competitions are our flagship competitions and we treat them at the exact same level and with the same importance. Before the start of both competitions, we started to work quite a lot and put a lot of effort into making sure that we had all the information around it.
I started the risk assessment with various partners who were involved because we cannot only rely on one source. It goes from, of course, the betting market, but also some kind of intelligence around all participants. It can be the referees, the players and all the delegations. Every participant is screened and we conduct integrity checks on everyone.
In addition we organised regional workshops with the integrity officer of each participating member association (PMA) to make sure that they are up to speed as it is essential for us to make sure that within each PMA one person is actually responsible for integrity matters.
For both World Cups it worked really well; all integrity officers reported that the integrity briefings were conducted, so it was a great success. This also means that even Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi had an integrity briefing and Megan Rapinoe for the Women’s World Cup – so that was very positive.
The second mandate that we give to them is to be our eyes and ears during the competitions. Basically, they are the point of contact with any concerns or if they see any suspicious activity of any player or anyone.
Besides the onsite integrity hub that we set up in order to monitor and analyse both the betting markets and in-game action of every match for integrity purposes, we also established a FIFA Women’s World Cup Integrity Task Force where all integrity stakeholders worked successfully together.
French authorities, the Group of Copenhagen, the betting regulators, Interpol, Sportradar and betting associations, such as GLMS, were involved. We managed to exchange information with all stakeholders and it worked really well.
So we can say, as far as we know, no suspicion of match manipulation was found around any of the matches.
Insider Sport: What is FIFA’s overall message when it comes to protecting the integrity of its competitions?
Oliver Jaberg: The message is that we at FIFA are extremely serious about the integrity of football and protecting our competitions because it’s very simple; if integrity is jeopardised and the result of a sporting competition is no longer unpredictable then you will not have any stakeholders attending the sport.
This means fans won’t go to the stadia. The sport will not be attractive for commercial affiliates and so on. So this is one of the reasons, obviously, why it’s extremely important to do a lot of work in the field of integrity.
Part of that work is the education and prevention efforts that we put in place, in particular, to support and encourage our member associations and the confederations to develop and strengthen their own integrity programmes and initiatives.
Equally, we’re working with law enforcement authorities, governmental institutions and other international organisations and experts to strengthen the efforts that are put globally into the integrity of sports and in particular of football.
This is also why we have developed a dedicated handbook for integrity officers around the globe and an e-learning tool for players, coaches, referees and other stakeholders in football.
Insider Sport: Regarding the toolkit, at the end of the assessment you are given a score which, if below 50%, states that the individual’s ‘club may be in touch’. Could you tell us more about the measures that will be taken by the club and FIFA in these cases?
Vincent Ven: The tool is very good for us because we have the possibility to track the results. Obviously you have to register and then there are some geographical questions, so let’s say that a player from the UK takes the assessment, they will have to choose his country and club meaning that we can track the results and if needed, be in touch with the integrity officer of the member association.
If at a certain point we realise, or the integrity officer realises, that in that specific club the message has not been understood correctly then it would make sense that the club would raise awareness of the threat with the players and with the officials.
Make sure you check back next week when we release the second half of our exclusive Q&A with FIFA, this time regarding the challenges associated with tackling integrity around the globe and collaborating with national associations.