Speaking at the SBC Digital Summit Latinoamérica, FIFA’s Head of Integrity Ennio Bovolenta underlined the group’s commitment to ensuring integrity and ethical behaviour is maintained both worldwide and in South America.

Bovolenta discussed a wide range of topics regarding the integrity of football, as well as FIFA’s definition of integrity, with the federation focusing its efforts to guarantee the essence of the sport at all times. 

He also described the different ways in which the result of a competition can be affected, by action or omission, and stated that the betting market is often involved.

According to FIFA’s head of integrity, football manipulation is a serious threat to the sport as it eliminates ‘the most interesting and most important parts of the sport, its nature, which is what generates passion among fans’.

He continued: “In our experience, we’ve found cases where there’s sports and economic reasons, but both usually coexist, it can be one, the other, or both. But the end result is always the same. In other words, football’s integrity is affected.”

FIFA has already initiated various programs in an attempt to stop corruption in the sport with the federation separating its initiatives into two sections. Firstly the governing body attempts to mitigate manipulation from the beginning through education and the planning of events, workshops, seminars and virtual programs, among other things to its players, clubs, referees and other interested parties.

The federation’s second part directly tackles integrity breaches head on through an investigation of suspicious activity. In the end, the process concludes when FIFA can determine if there was manipulation, in which case disciplinary committees are invited to initiate formal proceedings and, eventually, impose sanctions.

However, Bovolenta did highlight that despite FIFA’s process, collaboration is needed with other organisations around the world in order to mitigate the value of corruption in the sport.

He added: “FIFA cannot protect the integrity of all matches in all competitions around the world by its own. FIFA supports and recommends federations and confederations to act on integrity initiatives. We support those that seek to protect and promote the integrity of football.

“Manipulation is a form of corruption, and in Latin America, as in other regions, you can clearly see situations of corruption and match-fixing.

“In the CONMEBOL region, we can surely find a significant risk, as in other parts of the world, where integrity alerts reported for irregularities can be verified. We receive them from the monitoring companies, in particular from Sportradar, which has a collaboration agreement with us,” explained Bovolenta.

“We also receive reports from other betting monitoring companies around the world. And manipulation may not be detectable by following sports betting, because the fact that we receive an alert doesn’t necessarily mean that there was a problem. But many times it can be the starting point to find out if there was manipulation and, in some cases, start an investigation.”

FIFA’s initiates have continued to bring success in football’s battle against corruption with Bovolenta highlighting the Integrity Task Force that operated at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019. He stated that there was no suspicious activity despite the volume of bets being 14 times greater than the one in Canada 2015.

Furthermore, the head of integrity explained thaton FIFA cooperates with the confederations, such as CONMEBOL, to carry out initiatives to protect integrity at a regional level, including the scrutiny of referees to guarantee that they have integrity, that they haven’t been involved in actions of corruption and that they’re ready to compete.

Bovolenta concluded:  “FIFA has officers for each federation and confederation, which can be of help in case of an incident, by creating report mechanisms on the FIFA site, in the app and other sites in which they can report anonymously. We act by supervising the betting market, protecting competitions through education and training programs with empowerment plans, and with preliminary investigations and sections.”

SBC Digital Summit Latinoamérica, is the largest online event for the betting and gaming industry in the region. The gambling industry event, which features a four-track conference with 60 high-level speakers from operators, regulators and suppliers Latin America, started yesterday with the event concluding on 17 June. To register for day two of the event, or relive day one on-demand, click here.