One of the most important components of football competitions is the authenticity of the sport. Passion and interest depend on ensuring fairness in matches and, indirectly, this also increases sports betting activity.

During the SBC Digital Summit Latinoamérica, Alejandro Domínguez, president of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), Graciela Garay, Ethics and Compliance Officer, and Julio Lansac, Integrity Officer, delivered the keynote ‘Ensuring integrity in Latin American sports betting’, which kicked off the ‘Sports betting in focus’ track, sponsored by BetConstruct.

“Since we first started in CONMEBOL four years ago, we have set ourselves a main goal, which is ‘believe big’, to promote the transformation and professionalisation of South American football. In this process, honesty, transparency in management and compliance with regulations, were key to rebuilding the trust of the audience in this institution,” said President Domínguez.

“Thanks to this team of great professionals that work for the confederation, today we can say that we are moving in the right direction and that CONMEBOL is once again an institution that leads and drives the transformation of South American football with legitimacy and institutional credit recovered,” he added.

During the panel, CONMEBOL’s Ethics and Compliance Officer Graciela Garay stressed that the administration’s starting point was the determination to “give back to football what belongs to football.” She said: “We found ourselves in the need to start generating processes, policies, reversing cash payments and setting bank accounts in less than four months, that’s one of our historic measures.”

One of the most important decisions in recent years was to establish strategic pillars, including the creation of the Integrity Department. “Besides demonstrating transparency in all processes, we’re also committed to transferring that transparency and anti-corruption, which characterizes this term, to the playing field. This focuses on three sub-items: sports justice, economic justice and historical justice, taking fair play to all areas,” said the director.

CONMEBOL Integrity Officer Julio Lansac highlighted the presence of integrity authorities in all Member Associations, and said that this inclusion results in the relationship and work being more effective, since it also allows them to have more control in all competitions, both on a continental and national level.

To achieve the proposed goals, CONMEBOL set specific objectives, including prevention measures and signing an agreement with Sportradar which included all its services, such as monitoring the betting market, all the matches from competitions organized by CONMEBOL and national tournaments, intelligence services for suspicious cases and a reporting channel on the confederation’s website.

“First, we were trained to understand the situation of what it means to take care of football from the manipulation of matches and to face challenges with concrete solutions. Knowing the reality in which organizations and people seek to rig matches to obtain illicit benefits through football, CONMEBOL, along with experts and professionals, has implemented trainings and seminars for Member Associations, requiring each of them to appoint an integrity officer to address the matter at a national level, and that it be in direct control with CONMEBOL, in order to create ethical and upright behavior. Thus, we maintain the principle of sportsmanships that characterizes South American football,” said Lansac.

CONMEBOL has the obligation to carry out integrity examinations in accordance with the parameters established by the statute and the governance regulations of FIFA. The members of the CONMEBOL Council, the president, general secretary and assistant general secretaries, and the candidates to be part of the permanent commissions and judicial bodies must successfully pass an integrity examination carried out by the control subcommittee reporting to the Commission of Governance and Integrity.

Specific measures help maintain integrity in football

Garay commented that in 2019, in-person training was carried out for a total of 593 people, including referees, delegates, match officials and executives. The topics centered in ethics, anti-corruption, conflict of interest, confidentiality and money laundering prevention.

In this regard, the confederation has adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against individuals and organizations involved in match-fixing. “The threat to football’s integrity is real. Therefore, it’s essential for us to create awareness and communicate our principles to everyone involved in the sport,” said Lansac. “It’s essential to have clear and rigid rules that support our goals and the concept of integrity.”

“We know that the passion is generated by the uncertainty of what is going to happen. If the credibility and authenticity is questioned, the integrity is questioned and the reputation will be adversely affected, economically and in its essence. The consequence in sports is that the level of professionalization of football will be affected, through its players. And economically, sponsors won’t be interested in damaged products, since television rights will also be affected. CONMEBOL is committed to promoting integrity in South American football, seeking transparency and fair play in all the sport encompasses, and there is a zero tolerance policy against those that violate these principles,” the official concluded.

With a focus on integrity, CONMEBOL records higher revenues

In 2013, CONMEBOL reported prizes worth $59m, while in 2018 that number tripled to $141m. In 2020, the total club prizes are expected to jump to $217m. To date, CONMEBOL has invested more than $53m in development programs. In terms of revenue, the confederation expects $509m for the current year.

In addition, Garay highlighted that CONMEBOL has received the Best Practices Award for Transparency and Integrity in the Private Sector from UNODC and the National Anticorruption Secretariat of Paraguay. 

She concluded: “With this, we can certainly conclude that bad or good sports results are directly related to institutional management. The pitch cannot be separated from the institution.”