Updated at 6pm with MFA statement
Almost one out of every six footballers playing in Malta’s top division has been approached to fix a match sometime throughout his career, an international study by the global players’ union (Fifpro) has revealed.
Moreover, the number of such incidents in Malta was more than double the global average and was classified as the eighth highest among the 53 countries which were analysed by means of a questionnaire.
In the case of Malta, the findings were based on the anonymous feedback from 112 Premier League players who took part in this exercise aimed to give a holistic insight into the football employment market.
The report concludes that the majority of players worldwide face precarious employment conditions with those earning more than $720,000 per year accounting to just two per cent. A further 45 per cent receive below $1,000 a month.
As regards Malta, 78.8 per cent of players complained of payment delays, which was the highest in Europe. This finding assumes even greater relevance in the wake of the fact that incidents of match-fixing approaches were the highest among lower-paid players who were experiencing delays in remuneration.
18.2% of Maltese players said they were aware of match-fixing in the league
In Malta, 15.5 per cent of players said they had been offered a bribe at least once in their career, which was more than double the overall rate which stood at 6.7 per cent.
Georgia topped the list with 34.2 per cent, followed by Congo with 31.3 per cent. Though Romania was ranked as having the lowest rate, the study raised doubts on the reliability of this figure in the wake of recent match-fixing reports in this Eastern European country.
The study also analyses the respondents’ level of awareness on this illicit activity. It transpired that 18.2 per cent of Maltese players said they were aware of match-fixing in the league. However, the report cautioned that this figure could have been influenced by media reports, changing room gossip or just rumours.
The likelihood of being approached with a bribe increased with age. One out of every 10 players aged over 33 years who took part in this study said that they had had been made such offer at least once.
On the other hand, the report made it amply clear that there was nothing from the data which suggested that match-fixing was an endemic problem in world football.
Meanwhile, a task force set up in the wake of claims that Maltese football was “infested” with corruption is expected to propose a new law aimed at tightening controls and cracking down on this abuse by the end of this year.
The Bill will include tougher sanctions and address a number of grey areas, such as jurisdiction in matches involving teams from different countries, which in the past have hindered prosecutors.
In January last year, the MFA’s integrity officer, Franz Tabone, claimed in a newsletter that Maltese football was “infested by people who grade the game’s sporting spirit at the lowest grade, if any”.
“Some clubs finance their entire operation by manipulating matches, betting on them and the winnings going towards the club while also lining their own pockets,” Mr Tabone said.
Top 10 match-fixing approaches by country
*Source: 2016 Fifpro global employment report.
In a statement this evening, the MFA welcomed FIFPro's initiative and said it shall be analysing the findings of FIFPro’s global survey.
President Norman Darmanin Demajo said: “The Malta Football Association has always been at the forefront of the fight against match-fixing."
“In addition to the efforts and educational campaigns undertaken by our Integrity Office, the MFA has been instrumental in the creation of the Anti-Corruption Task Force, through which it is spearheading a process that should lead to harsher deterrents."
“The MFA reiterates its zero-tolerance stance on any form of corruption in sport as well as its total commitment to fighting this problem as it has always done.”
Football players, the MFA said, were duty-bound to report any offer or approach to fix a game.
It said that to further encourage football players to come forward with information on match-fixing approaches as well as to protect them, it introduced whistleblower protection measures which were proving to be a very effective tool in the fight against corruption in football.
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