FIFA blows whistle on match-fixing hotline

FIFA President Sepp Blatter halted a whistle-blowing programme designed to help root out match-fixing in football before it could even start to work, FIFA's outgoing head of security said on Wednesday.

The plan to grant anonymity and protection to players and officials targeted by illegal gambling groups was announced amid great fanfare by world football's ruling body last September.

It was quietly put on ice two weeks later when Blatter decided to integrate it into broader efforts to clean up governance at FIFA, which has been dogged by allegations of corruption over the awards of World Cups to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 and its own election process.

"President Blatter suspended the programme specifically focused on match-fixing to allow both the Executive Committee and the independent governance committee to determine whether this should be applied against the totality of the organisation," FIFA's head of security Chris Eaton told the Soccerex European Forum.

"It's true to say that I was disappointed but I understood. I'm pleased that they saw it as being a valuable programme to apply in a more total way," Eaton later told reporters.

Mark Pieth, a Swiss corporate governance expert, heads the governance committee and is due to present his findings to FIFA on Friday.

Eaton, an Australian former policeman, joined FIFA only two years ago. He said his decision to move to the Qatar-based International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) was not connected to the suspension of the whistle-blowing scheme.

The ICSS, a private body, was set up last year to help protect major sports events. Eaton said he was pleased to be working across a wider range of sports.

"I am looking forward to broadening the responsibility because the common issues here - it's the same bookmakers and the same criminals," he said.

Football has been hit by match-fixing scandals in a number of leagues around the world. Three Pakistani cricketers were jailed last year for agreeing to fix part of a test match against England at Lord's.

Eaton said the problems stemmed from unregulated gambling markets in South-East Asia, which were being exploited by organised crime groups.