Zurich: England’s players will be given special briefings about what to do if they are targeted by match-fixers during the World Cup.
For the first time at football’s biggest tournament, players from all 32 competing nations will be given “integrity sessions” by Fifa officials, when they will be told to report anything suspicious via a special anti-corruption hotline available only to players and referees.
The threat posed to the World Cup by organised crime networks all over the world is being taken so seriously by Fifa that it has put a raft of unprecedented measures in place.
Ralf Mutschke, Fifa’s head of security, also issued a stark warning to English football over match-fixing, saying a series of arrests by the National Crime Agency last year should act as a “wake-up call” about the seriousness of the problem.
Mutschke, the most senior anti-corruption official in the world game, also told the British Government it would succeed only in combating the threat to sporting integrity in the UK if it passed a law specifically to deal with match-fixing, something it has so far refused to do.
Mutschke’s immediate concern was the World Cup, with the former senior German police officer determined to leave nothing to chance.
“Fifa, and in particular myself, has to make the presumption that the World Cup itself is under threat and implement the maximum protection for our competition as we can,” he said.
“We are trying to protect the World Cup from fixing and we have set up a pretty wide range of measures to do so.”
As well as integrity briefings, those measures will include intelligence-led targeting of high-risk players, referees and fixtures.
“We are also indicating the players, the teams and their histories in fixing and making a risk assessment,” Mutschke said. “Is it a group match, is it the first match, is it the end-of-a-group match, is it a final? This indicates the vulnerability.”
All 64 games will be monitored like never before, with security agents at each of the 12 World Cup venues and forensic scrutiny of suspicious betting patterns, as well as social media.
It is enough to put anyone off accepting an approach to fix a match in Brazil but Mutschke warned that to dismiss the prospect would be naive.