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Interpol to consider corruption in soccer
Kate Arnott reports while soccer is facing match-fixing allegations worldwide,t experts say the problem is particularly prevalent in Asia, where betting laws are lax.

It's no secret that match fixing in soccer is a major problem across the world.

But experts say it's particularly rampant in Asia where betting laws are lax and massive amounts of money are moving through the gambling market.

To try to combat match fixing, INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) will host a major conference on corruption in soccer in Malaysia in the coming week.

Kate Arnott reports.
DARREN SMALL, DIRECTOR OF INTEGRITY, SPORTRADER: Talking about organised crime working within football or within sport to manipulate results for their own financial benefit.

BRENDAN SCHWAB, FIFPRO ASIA CHAIRMAN: If we look to countries in eastern Europe, if we look to Asia, particularly Malaysia, Indonesia, China and even the Republic of Korea then the vulnerabilities are very real.

KATE ARNOTT, REPORTER: The fixing of soccer matches has been around for decades but it's now endemic worldwide. The vast number of games played and a massive increase in online betting make the sport an easy target for organised crime, which FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) estimates as much as $15 billion a year from manipulating matches.

SEPP BLATTER, FIFA PRESIDENT (Translation): Listen, we know there are games that are fixed but we also know that it's very difficult to do anything about the organisers and especially cheats.

KATE ARNOTT: Tracking down the organisers may be difficult, but FIFA has adopted a zero tolerance approach towards cheating players. It handed out life bans to 41 players in South Korea alone at the beginning of the year.

BRENDAN SCHWAB: In Korea the consequences have been tragic. And local Korean players who have been named and associated with match fixing have been unable to deal with that and there's been a number of suicides among players in those countries.

KATE ARNOTT: The enormity of the match fixing problem was exposed in a recent investigation by Europol which identified nearly 700 suspicious matches and more than 400 corrupt officials, players and serious criminals across the world.

ARSENE WEGNER, ARSENAL COACH: It was absolutely a surprise by the number of games that have been fixed. And for me it's a real tsunami and a real shock.

KATE ARNOTT: European police are investigating a major syndicate based in Singapore which they allege is the main player in the global betting scam. Sports integrity experts say Asia's lax betting regulations, coupled with the sheer scale of the gambling market, makes it an extremely attractive place for match fixers.

DARREN SMALL: Asia's its own sort of, it's animal, really. They run a lot with agents and people who are taking bets on behalf of book makers and the money truck goes through a pyramid system almost to get through to the top end. It's a not very transparent system which doesn't allow for clarity as to who's placed bets where and why.

KATE ARNOTT: Darren Small is the director of integrity at Sport Radar, a company that monitors global betting and is employed by major sports governing bodies, including Football Federation Australia. He's been visiting Australia to meet with police and a range of sporting bodies to give them advice on establishing a national sports integrity program.

(Footage of match between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory, 2012 plays)

Soccer in Australia came into the spotlight when it was revealed a Hong Kong book maker took $6 million on a game between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory played on Friday, December 7 last year.

The betting on the A-League match highlights how Asia's gambling market is increasingly turning to Australian soccer.

Sport security experts say Friday night matches played in Australia are especially popular in South-East Asia because they can be watched live and gambled on live.

Sport Radar was monitoring that match in December and noted the book maker took more than he did on a big English Premier League game between Manchester United and Manchester City held the same weekend. In the end though, the company and police found nothing amiss about the A-League match.

DARREN SMALL: It was a situation where actually the game was being offered at a very nice time in terms of the scheduling for matches in Asia. It's a Friday evening, it was the first game of the weekend for people to bet on. And it was just a very, very nice match to be offered. And there was nothing else in competition with it.

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER GRAHAM ASHTON, VICTORIA POLICE: We're not identifying, certainly Victoria Police hasn't identified this match fixing going on at this stage, but it is widespread overseas and the increasing betting pools mean that we need to take preventative action now to make the sports more resilient to this threat.

KATE ARNOTT: Police say a key part of that preventative action is using tools like Sport Radar. The company monitors more than 300 book makers across the world before and during a match and looks for spikes in betting and any other suspicious patterns.

DARREN SMALL: We monitor these with an automated system which generates an alert, tells us when there's a concern where something's reached a point where we need to do some more investigation. And then my analysts they jump on, they start researching and ask our freelancers who are based in over 80 different countries worldwide and they do some research as to what may be the reasoning behind that.

KATE ARNOTT: If anything unusual is detected, the information is immediately passed on to law enforcement agencies and sports federations.

As well as monitoring betting, education is also vital.

Brendan Schwab is the Asian chair of the World Soccer Players Union. He travels around the region making players aware of the techniques that criminals use to draw them in.

BRENDAN SCHWAB: It might start with something as blatant as introducing an athlete to women, introducing them to a casino where they can get into debt, perhaps exposing them to illicit drugs where they otherwise have a vulnerability which they don't want to be exposed to their club, to their family or to the media. And all of a sudden there's a problem and there's a problem that needs to be resolved. And then the criminal elements can say to the player there's a way out of this problem for you. And unfortunately that can involve playing in a way which may facilitate the fixing of a match.

KATE ARNOTT: Brendan Schwab will head to Kuala Lumpur this week to attend a conference against match fixing organised by INTERPOL and the Asian Football Confederation. He'll be pushing for better conditions and protection for the union's 65,000 members.

BRENDAN SCHWAB: Clearly if these 65,000 professional players are alive to the issues, they're well educated and well resourced and have their rights respected so that they're not vulnerable, then clearly it's a major step forward in making sure that the players are doing whatever they can do to collaborate with the policing authorities and the football authorities to make sure the game's as clean as it possibly can be.
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