The FAI will today open a confidential telephone line as part of its increased vigilance to protect the integrity of football in Ireland.
The initiative, specifically to help monitor any suspect betting or match-fixing concerns, was just one of many topics outlined at the FAI’s first Player Guidelines seminar, in conjunction with the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland and Irish Sports Council, held at Lansdowne Road on Wednesday night.
The seminar advises players on many key aspects of the game — highlighted in an accompanying booklet — including general player discipline, anti-doping, player welfare, discrimination and social media use.
But the ever-increasing threat from match fixing and the influence of organised crime in it, is something the FAI and PFAI are especially keen to make players conscious of.
Players are encouraged to report any suspicions they may have on potential match-fixing or betting on games to the confidential match integrity phone line which goes live from 1pm today. Players can also contact the FAI on the issue by email.
Last June, a tip-off from a team-mate led to Longford Town midfielder Colm James being banned from the game for 18 months after being found guilty on six counts of breaching the FAI’s rules on match integrity.
“From listening to Platini, Blatter, even our own CEO, it’s something we need to be very vigilant of,” said FAI Competitions Director, Fran Gavin.
“Particularly when you look at our own league — a summer league. There is not a lot of football on elsewhere in the world at that time, and betting is a billion dollar industry worldwide and they need an outlet.
“Our league is live on TV as well so we need to make sure we have everything in place to try and deal with this. We’re not naive enough to say nobody is going to try this. Our job is to go through the education process and let players know that if this does happen, that they are aware of the consequences.
“We will go after people. If we discover the information is correct, we will take action.”
Prior to the James case, PFAI general secretary Stephen McGuinness believed attempts at match fixing couldn’t happen here. Now he knows otherwise.
“I was wrong,” he said. “As much as I’d tell you I think the league is clean, you can’t say that 100%. You’d like to be confident we have a league with players who understand the integrity of the game and are professional footballers because that’s what they want to be. I would like to think the league is clean, but we’ve got to stay vigilant. And we’ve got to keep the players educated.”