The Kuala Lumpur-based Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has roped in the former justice of Delhi High Court - Mukul Mudgal - as a member of the powerful AFC Governance Reform Task Force which, among other things, is trying to control increased cases of match fixing across the world by punters from Asia.
The former Indian judge, who probed last year allegations of spot fixing and illegal betting in the world’s richest Indian Premier League (IPL), has shared with AFC, football’s controlling body in Asia, some interesting insights on illegal betting and fixing in India.
“I have offered them some ideas which can help control fixing and betting in the game,” Mudgal said in a brief interview, refusing to divulge his ideas.
The second meeting of the Task Force will be held by the end of this month, high on the agenda is the development of new AFC policies on whistleblowers and mitigating the risk of bribery and corruption.
Corruption runs high in football world, including in Asia. The AFC’s disciplinary committee, in the latest incident, suspended Thanom Borikut and Chaiya Mahapab, two referees from Thailand for alleged actions relating to match-fixing.
For almost two to three years, soccer matches in India, which ranks low in FIFA chart, have attracted bets on top betting sites across the world, triggering fears among investigators about a growing illegal soccer betting market within the country.
“The mandate is to clean football in Asia. We are all working towards it,” says Mudgal.
The game’s recent history in the continent has been pockmarked by corruption and match-fixing scandals. Asian punters are increasingly fixing matches played all over Europe and even Latin America. Worse, an independent audit by Price Waterhouse Coopers found president Mohammed Bin Hammam, the president of AFC, guilty of serious financial embezzlement, warning could be even cases of money laundering, tax invasion and bribery.
Mudgal agreed that match fixing in football - a $15 billion business - is a growing malaise in Asia, which is an extremely attractive place for criminal gangs because of the region’s lax betting regulations coupled with the sheer scale of its gambling market.
His ideas have worked within the AFC, there are chances the former Indian judge - if selected - could soon be on a FIFA panel to clean up dirt in the game across the world.
In a note to AFC, Sportradar, an Australian company monitoring global football betting, said fixing of soccer games is now endemic worldwide, particularly rampant in Asia. “The Asian system lacks clarity with lots of agents and people placing bets on behalf bookmakers. The money goes right to the top, working like a pyramid system. Criminal syndicates work within football to fix results for financial benefits,” Darren Small, Director, Integrity, Sportradar, was quoted in the report.
The Asian chair of the world football players' union, FIFPro, admits the consequences for those involved in match fixing in Asia are often tragic because officials and players, when caught, are unable to deal with the situation. The crisis is high in Malaysia, Indonesia and China. Singapore has some of the world’s biggest soccer betting syndicates, currently under investigation by the European police.
Last year, Europol, the European Union's police body, identified nearly 700 suspicious matches and over 500 corrupt officials, criminals and shady players across the world. The UEFA said 15 matches of Champions League were fixed by Asian bookies during this season alone. “It's our strong suspicion that agents collecting bets for the Asian betting companies are often playing a major role in manipulating matches,” UEFA said in a note to Europol.
Not just Europe, betting on the Australia-League matches reflect Asia’s gambling markets growing interest in matches played Down Under because in South-East Asia they can be watched and gambled on live.
The AFC is - expectedly - worried.
FIFA, the game’s controlling body, has repeatedly said punters and criminals mostly originate from Asia. “We know games are fixed, but we also know that it's very difficult to do anything about the organisers and cheats," the new FIFA president, Gianni Infantino was quoted by the football body’s official website.
Interestingly, it was Infantino’s push that helped set up the AFC Task Force. Now its time to work, and deliver.