UEFA issues match fixing warning as fixers adapt to Covid-19 restrictions

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April 6 – UEFA has issued an intelligence alert to its federations warning that match-fixers are quickly adapting to Covid-19 restrictions, despite the bulk of leagues and games across Europe having been shut down.

In the alert UEFA warns that fixers are targeting lower-tier games and youth games that could provide data for the betting markets, as well as warning of a “heightened risk” of ‘ghost matches’.

Despite the Covid-19 shutdown of play, it has “done little to temper bettor interest in European football. With bettors – and match-fixers – worldwide left with limited betting options, we assess that the few matches still being held will be at greater risk of targeting by match-fixers.

“These matches may involve youth leagues or lower-tier clubs, whose players have yet to benefit from match-fixing prevention training, or club friendlies, which may be subject to less scrutiny or press attention. We similarly judge there to be a heightened risk of so-called “ghost matches” in which fixers create matches – inventing line-ups, stats, and match outcome – for offer on betting markets but no player or referee ever enters the pitch.”

UEFA said it had received a report from its integrity officer in Ukraine regarding likely ghost-matches there, as well as similar concerns in Russia.

See: Ukraine ‘ghost’ games fool bookies and punters as criminals pull off perfect crime

UEFA also cited cases in Sweden – which had been permitting matches under guidelines allowing gatherings of up to 50 people – where there was an unprecedented interest in a friendly match scheduled for March 30 between a seventh-tier and eighth-tier club. The match was cancelled after players “were subject to a barrage of social media messages from individuals seeking inside information or wishing players good or ill luck”.

UEFA gives a 9-point checklist to its federation integrity officers:

  • Review local COVID-19 restrictions as they pertain to football. Are there any provisions that would allow match-play under certain circumstances, such as without spectators?
  •  Are club friendlies currently allowed? 
  • Do clubs systematically inform the FA prior to scheduling and playing club friendlies?
  •  Do you currently monitor social media, local press, or betting operator sites for ghost matches? (The AMFU has been in contact with IBIA, certain betting operators, and other integrity partners regarding the suspected ghost matches; monitoring efforts across the broader integrity community have redoubled on this issue.) 
  • Do you employ a domain monitoring service to detect registration of typo or lookalike domains for malicious purposes?
  • Are your clubs aware of the risk of ghost matches?
  •  Have you sent awareness messages to clubs highlighting risks related to COVID-19 or conducted additional at-distance prevention training?
  •  Have you considered what changes to the current situation would impact your risk assessment and begun monitoring for same (tripwires)?

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