MFA, authorities in common front against match-fixing

The Grand Hotel Excelsior was the venue this morning of an information session by name of ‘Say No to Match-Fixing’ organised by the Malta Football Association.

The activity brought together MFA officials, a representative of the Commissioner of Police, Hon. Chris Agius, the Parliamentary Secretary for Sport, Home Affairs Shadow Minister Hon. Jason Azzopardi, Hon. David Agius, Opposition Spokesman for Sport and Hon. Kristy Debono representing Affairs on Competitiveness on behalf of the Opposition. Also present were representatives of the Malta Gaming Authority and the Malta Sports Council.

Bjorn Vassallo, the MFA general secretary opened the session. He said that football is the world’s most popular sport and in some way or another everybody is connected with the game. He said that the MFA has thousands of registered members while football has a wide expanse that translates into vast commercial activity which involves thousands of passionate team supporters on the local front.

The general secretary stressed that the “MFA has neither the tools nor the authority to investigate in depth any criminal offences relating to the manipulation of sports events and match-fixing in order to effectively confront criminal organisations that are involving themselves in fraudulent sports activities.”

“Observing this abuse passively is not the solution. We do not wish to arrive at a point where other countries found themselves in, with football completely at the mercy of individuals who use sport for illicit purposes. In this respect the MFA has been structured adequately in terms of internal organisation. However, this is not enough in order to achieve our goals and for this reason we are seeking the intervention of all parties, including the politicians, the police force, the judiciary, the Malta Gaming Authority and the Malta Sports Council,” Vassallo said.

The second part of the session consisted of a presentation from Franz Tabone, Integrity Officer of the association, during which he explained the work carried out by the MFA during the last four years as well as the educational programmes undertaken by the MFA for the benefit of its member clubs and associations. He also presented a detailed analysis of the current situation in the association’s fight against corruption both on the domestic and international fronts.

Dr Chris Bonett, MFA vice-president and Head of the association’s Legal and Football Governance department, spoke about the need of updating the Law on Corruption in Sport in order to reflect the international aspects and modern technology in the fight against match-fixing. He also dealt with the setting up of a specialised structure which includes public officials and competent sports authorities in the same way as those of other countries.

In its last meeting the MFA Executive Committee, approved the launching of Anti-Corruption and Transparency Experts’ Task Force with a view to getting all the interested parties to work together in the fight against corruption and to uphold the the principle of transparency and develop a comprehensive stance against match-fixing in sport.

The officials present in today’s meeting agreed unanimously with the proposals presented by the MFA. These are expected to be implemented according to an action plan which will be discussed during the first meeting of the Task Force.