Algorithm technology that detects suspected match-fixing could be used to catch teams and players involved in sports corruption, according to the Malta Football Association’s watchdog.
MFA integrity officer Franz Tabone told the Times of Malta the technology formed part of the betting fraud detection system, a set-up already in place locally. “We have this technology and we get reports on local matches but there could be room to take this further,” he said.
Mr Tabone, who has spearheaded the fight against football corruption in Malta, said Lithuania and Cyprus recently become the first two countries to suspend players after they were identified by the system as being linked to irregular betting.
What was mainly about match-fixing for points on the league table, or honours, and minor gambling, is today part of a criminal network that stretches as far away as Asia
He made it clear he was not suggesting players and others involved in the sport would be shown the red card without due process. In his opinion, the technology should be used as part of a body of evidence that could be presented before the Court of Arbitration of Sport, a sort of court of justice for sportsmen and sportswomen.
Mr Tabone said the technology had recently been improved to provide more refined data as the international sporting community continued to clamp down on match-fixing and corruption.
The Times of Malta recently reported that the government planned to ban athletes found guilty of corruption from all sports facilities for a decade.
Sports Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima said a proposed legal reform was set to be presented to Parliament after the summer recess.
Mr Tabone said discussing legal reforms was “all well and good” but they would remain pointless if enforcement was not stepped up. “We have introduced harsher penalties for drug abuse in the past, but we did not see the problem decrease. There needs to be a renewed focus on enforcement if this is going to work,” he said.
Mr Tabone said he had been conducting tireless educational campaigns to weed out corruption but the problem was only getting bigger.
In 2013, legal bets on local football ranged between €50 million and €70 million. The figure is based on statistics gathered by Sportradar, the Swiss company engaged by the MFA to collect data on football betting.
However, it is widely acknowledged that millions of euros are gambled through unregulated betting companies based mostly in Asia.
“Corruption is a bigger issue today. What was mainly about match-fixing for points on the league table, or honours, and minor gambling, is today part of a criminal network that stretches as far away as Asia,” Mr Tabone said.
The proposed law will seek to widen the jurisdiction of the police extensively.
They will be able to prosecute perpetrators irrespective of their nationality or the country where the crime was committed whenever the offence has an impact on Maltese sporting events.