Match-fixing in Asian football's domestic competitions has decreased by 34 per cent since 2016, with officials hoping for more collaboration with police and bookmakers to reduce the scourge to "as close to zero as possible".
The Asian Football Confederation on Friday strengthened their ability to fight match-fixing in the region by extending their contract with Sportradar, a leading supplier of sports integrity solutions, for another four years.
"That is a significant decrease," said Oscar Brodkin, Sportradar's director of intelligence & investigation services. "When we first met AFC in 2013, it appeared to be that match-fixing was at an all-time high. Between 2009 and 2013 was the peak of match-fixing because you had scandals all over the world.
"I believe the numbers clearly show that things have decreased since 2016, which is obviously good for the AFC."
The partnership, which started in 2013, has already resulted in a number of successful prosecutions. In 2019, four Central Asian players caught match-fixing in AFC competitions in 2017 and 2019 received life bans.
In 2015, five Nepali players were arrested by police for fixing matches during the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. They were eventually charged of treason because at the time there was no law against match fixing in Nepal. As a result, they were acquitted.
Benoit Pasquier, the AFC's general counsel and director of legal affairs, said: "The partnership and collaboration with Sportradar has been a real success story. They have provided excellent support in helping with key investigations and at the same time we have seen a significant reduction in the number of matches which are of concern.
"It demonstrates, while there is no room for complacency, that we are prepared to take on those who wish to manipulate our sport."
In 2017, the battle against match-fixing in Asia reached a milestone when the AFC launched its integrity mobile app, allowing fans, players and officials to report any issues directly to the AFC Integrity Unit. This app is to be upgraded, as part of the new agreement with Sportradar, to allow for the reporting cases of doping, bullying and harassment as well as match-fixing.
Sportradar, which monitors around 600 bookmakers and betting operators and covers a 300,000 matches a year, uses its technology to spot anomalies in sports betting to detect matches that may have been fixed.
The intelligence and services team serves more than 50 sports federations, clubs and gaming operators worldwide, combating match fixing, doping violations and compliance fraud.
Brodkin, who manages a team of more than 25 intelligence professionals drawn from law enforcement and anti-fraud agencies in seven countries around the world, said he hoped more people would be willing to report suspicious activities in sport.
"I think there should be an increase in reporting," he said. "When there is a lack of reporting, that means people are not aware of the rules, are engaging in match-fixing or are afraid to come forward to their federation. We think an increase shows the sport is cleaner.
"There should be more of a dialogue with the police and with the bookmakers, which is what the model is in Australia and Europe."
When asked about targets for the next four years of the contract, Brodkin said: "Of course, the perfect number is zero but due to human greed, the numbers will show that it is impossible. Just a notable decrease (is what we are looking for).
"The fact that betting coverage is increasing and the numbers have decreased since 2016 is all the more impressive. But to even have any decrease over the last few years is a success. There are no tangible numbers but the closer towards zero the better."
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