“This is new ground for sport,” Chris Eaton, the organization’s security chief, said Monday. “I’m afraid criminals have changed the nature of sport.”
Eaton has found mounting evidence that international and club matches are being targeted by gangs who bribe players and referees. Match-fixing scandals have tarnished leagues in Turkey, Italy, Israel, Finland and Greece this year.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made combating such corruption — both within his organization and in leagues around the world — a priority for his fourth term. He will disclose his plans this week in Switzerland.
Eaton gave a preview of those plans in London, estimating that soccer gambling totals $1.4 trillion a year and that $1.4 billion can be placed on a single Premier League match alone.
“We’re going to have a rewards program for one month from January, followed then by a hotline and amnesty program probably for three months, all managed independently,” Eaton said at the Professional Players Federation conference. “This will then be followed by an assessment program, followed by some sort of amnesty for the players who have been unfairly compromised, and there’ll be rehabilitation for those players.”
After the first half of 2012, FIFA will then implement “the Sepp Blatter doctrine — which is absolute zero tolerance,” the former Australian police officer said.
Eaton said not all rewards would be financial and complete immunity cannot be offered to whistle-blowers.
“We can’t give an amnesty from criminal prosecution,” he said. “It will be the first time that (rewards and amnesty) have been offered by FIFA, perhaps any sporting body — allowing players, administrators and officials to make a clean breast of it.”
FIFA sought advice from Transparency International, a global anti-corruption watchdog. Eaton said he backs the view that whistle-blowers who have evidence need protection.
By confessing to corruption, offenders can lessen the penalty they receive from FIFA’s ethics committee.
“I expect players to come forward,” Eaton said. “I have been involved now with FIFA for 12 months and I have already had many players approaching me with information, no matter the consequences. In their heart, they love their sport. In their heart, they love their country. In their heart, they want to do the right thing.”
Tony Higgins, from international players’ union FIFPro, raised doubts about players coming forward.
“They are terrified of filing in an anonymous questionnaire in the first instance,” Higgins said.