Delivering the event keynote at the SBC Digital Summit Latinoamérica, FIFA’s Head of Integrity Ennio Bovolenta talked of the measures carried out by the international governing body for football to protect the competition and promote integrity and ethical behavior both in South America and worldwide.
In his inaugural speech, Bovolenta discussed what integrity means to FIFA and how the organisation is focusing its efforts to guarantee the essence of the sport at all times. He also described the different ways in which the result of a competition can be affected, by action or omission, and said that the betting market is often involved.
According to Bovolenta, manipulation in football is very serious since it eliminates “the most interesting and most important parts of the sport, its nature, which is what generates passion among fans”.
“In our experience, we’ve found cases where there’s sports and economic reasons, but both usually coexist, it can be one, the other, or both. But the end result is always the same. In other words, football’s integrity is affected,” he said.
The FIFA official revealed that the governing body’s mission is to educate and prevent through program promotions for players, clubs, referees and other interesting parties before, during and after competitions.
In order for prevention to be effective, FIFA separates its initiatives in two parts. It organizes events, workshops, seminars and virtual programs, among other things. The second part consists of investigating suspicious activity. The process ends when FIFA can determine if there was manipulation, in which case disciplinary committees are invited to initiate formal proceedings and, eventually, impose sanctions.
To name a previous successful example, Bovolenta highlighted the Integrity Task Force that operated at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019. He said that there was no suspicious activity despite the volume of bets being 14 times greater than the one in Canada 2015.
“FIFA cannot protect the integrity of all matches in all competitions around the world by its own,” he added. “FIFA supports and recommends federations and confederations to act on integrity initiatives. We support those that seek to protect and promote the integrity of football.”
“Manipulation is a form of corruption, and in Latin America, as in other regions, you can clearly see situations of corruption and match-fixing,” he said. “In the CONMEBOL region, we can surely find a significant risk, as in other parts of the world, where integrity alerts reported for irregularities can be verified. We receive them from the monitoring companies, in particular from Sportradar, which has a collaboration agreement with us.”
“We also receive reports from other betting monitoring companies around the world. And manipulation may not be detectable by following sports betting, because the fact that we receive an alert doesn’t necessarily mean that there was a problem. But many times it can be the starting point to find out if there was manipulation and, in some cases, start an investigation,” he added.
In addition, the Head of Integrity explained that FIFA cooperates with the confederations and with CONMEBOL to carry out initiatives to protect integrity at a regional level, including the scrutiny of referees to guarantee that they have integrity, that they haven’t been involved in wrongdoings and that they’re ready to compete.
He summarized his keynote by assuring that the goal is to create and maintain an efficient network of integrity officers. “FIFA has officers for each federation and confederation, which can be of help in case of an incident, by creating report mechanisms on the FIFA site, in the app and other sites in which they can report anonymously. We act by supervising the betting market, protecting competitions through education and training programs with empowerment plans, and with preliminary investigations and sections,” he concluded.
SBC Digital Summit Latinoamérica, the largest online event for the betting and gaming industry in the region, takes place on June 16-17, featuring a four-track conference with 60 high-level speakers from operators, regulators and suppliers sharing ideas for the future of both the online and land-based gambling industry in Latin America.