FIFA fighting match fixing

Virtually the entire world is preparing for the FIFA World Cup 2010 to begin in just under two weeks from today. As is the case with all sports when the stakes are high, match fixing is always a concern in the back of peoples’ minds. However, this is the biggest stage globally for a single tournament and it involves the most popular sport in the world so the concerns are even more pronounced.

The governing body for the game of soccer (football, as it’s known outside North America), FIFA, has created a number of measures that will combat match fixing from becoming an issue during these World Cup games. They have set up a separate, non-profit company called Early Warning System (EWS) that will monitor sports betting for the tournament to catch any irregularities in the betting lines or otherwise. They also say that they have received agreements of cooperation from over 400 bookmakers, although there is no word on how or if they will be able to tell if they are lying.

On top of those plans, FIFA has set up a confidential hotline where players, coaches and referees can call with anonymity and let the authorities know that match fixing may be taking place. These measures are certainly not bullet proof and if someone really wants to fix a game and has the resources to do it, I don’t see these measures stopping everyone from doing so. This tournament is likely more difficult to prevent match fixing in then say, the NFL or NBA playoffs because the World Cup involves people from countries where money is not as abundant as the western world.

Countries like North Korea, Honduras and Nigeria which are all participating in the tournament have low average incomes and understandably may be more inclined to accept payment for letting in a goal or two. In addition, the fact that this tournament has such global reach makes it tougher to monitor, not to mention the size of the audience for the tournament which only exacerbates the potential problems.

The amount of money that this tournament represents from betting is likely going to be in the billions, including using online betting sites and bookmakers all over the world. The World Cup will also generate billions in advertising revenue and a travel boom for host, South Africa. If team U.S.A. wins the World Cup (which is a long shot), we can expect to see big endorsements for the team and for some of the key players as well. Teams in Europe will also see an increase in endorsements, but since the teams, players and sports is far more popular and mature there, the increase will be smaller.

The World Cup should be fun to watch and hopefully FIFA’s measures will be enough to thwart all potential match fixing plots.