Airtricity League director Fran Gavin says that while it would be “naive” to think Irish football couldn’t become a target for match-fixing, he is confident that, thus far, the problem has not taken root in this country.
Gavin says that, in recent years, just two League of Ireland games were subject to pre-match interventions by the FAI following reports of irregular betting patterns and, in both cases, there was subsequently no evidence in the games themselves to suggest anything was amiss.
In his role as Integrity Officer with the FAI, Gavin recently attended a Fifa/Uefa conference in Rome at which the issue of match-fixing was discussed by football officials, Europol, state bodies and betting companies.
“It’s something that’s crept into football worldwide over the last number of years,” he says, “and we’d be very naIve to think that our league wouldn’t be a target for something like that, especially with ours being a summer league.
“As things stand, we get notification from betting companies or other relevant parties if there are any irregular betting patterns around games. We then have a protocol that kicks in whereby, prior to a game, we’d meet and talk to the match officials, both sets of managers and the players in the dressing room.
“We’d inform them that the game is being monitored very closely, that we have had notification that there may be some issue around the match, and that there would be serious consequences for anyone involved in such incidents.”
As an example, Gavin cites the game between Shelbourne and Monaghan in May of last year which Monaghan won 2-1 and, prior to which, he was obliged to visit the dressing rooms to warn of reports of irregular betting patterns around the game.
“In that case we also notified Uefa beforehand,” Gavin explains. “They monitored the game and gave us a full report in relation to betting on that game that was happening worldwide. And it didn’t show any suspicious pattern outside of Ireland. It was very much a localised issue and I think our intervention prevented anything happening, really.”
Despite the apparently low level of suspicious activity in the Irish game, Gavin insists that there can be no grounds for complacency.
“We do keep track of all this and it is an issue we’ve very conscious of,” he says. “And following that conference in Rome, we’d be looking again at our own processes around all that stuff.
“We’re on a learning curve here with this, as most countries are, and if there’s any way we can strengthen our safeguards, we will. And that would include our relationship with the guards. Because there are criminal gangs involved in this and, if we do find it happening here, we need to be able to ensure that the full force of the law is brought to bear on anyone that’s involved.”
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