Police commissioner could toughen battle against football corruption

An MFA report published earlier this month paints a damning picture of the state of corruption in Maltese football. 

Michael Cassar
Michael Cassar

Police Commissioner Michael Cassar will look into a proposal by the Malta FA for the setting up of an Anti-Corruption and Transparency Task Force to tackle football corruption. The task force as proposed will include members from the police, the MFA and the Malta Gaming Authority. 

“We will do anything to fight all types of corruption, so I’m all for the MFA’s proposal,” Cassar told MaltaToday. “From our side, we already have a squad that investigates all reports of football corruption and match-fixing but we’ll consider suggestions that will improve our fight against it.” 

An MFA report published earlier this month paints a damning picture of the state of corruption in Maltese football. 

“Our football is infested by people who grade the game’s sporting spirit at the lowest grade, if any,” MFA Integrity Officer Franz Tabone wrote. “Some club officials are blind when they come across money and will dive into any abyss for it. 

“Some of the people in the game just snigger at us, saying that we are tackling the impossible, while they carry on manipulating football matches. They may still be getting away with it, but we will certainly not be relenting.”

“The hypocrites circling our football have carried on with their corrupt practices, unaffected by the repercussions and the irreparable damage that they have caused to the game.

“They are happy enough to be part of a dishonest circle that is steadily destroying our football’s image and has turned honest people away from the clubs and stadiums. Apparently we have not managed to strongly impress or alarm the authorities or, even more importantly the law enforcers, who have, for their own reasons, kept on procrastinating. 

“They keep avoiding our representations hoping that all will sort itself out. They are mistaken. Match-fixing, in which some individuals in our football have been meddling for years, has grown to such an extent that the general public considers all our matches to be of a dubious nature.” 

Tabone’s report also claims that some football clubs allegedly finance their entire operations through elaborate betting scams.

“These clubs finance their entire operations by manipulating matches and betting on them, with the winnings going into the club whilst also lining their own pockets.

“They are ruthless and unaffected by the harm they have caused people who wish to love and be involved in our football.” 

Speaking on the TV programme ‘Replay’ earlier this week, MFA secretary Bjorn Vassallo revealed that a whopping average of €70 million is placed in legal bets per season of Maltese football –  €50 million on Premier League games and €20 million on First Division games. 

However, MFA president Norman Darmanin Demajo downplayed concerns that those statistics could reflect the level of match-fixing. 

“These figures incorporate bets placed both in Malta and abroad,” Darmanin Demajo told MaltaToday. “People bet on everything, and the more lists are out there the more they will bet. This statistic just puts it into perspective.”

Despite it being such a seemingly widespread practice, the police have not yet received any reports pertaining to alleged corruption throughout the ongoing football season. This was confirmed in Parliament on Monday by Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela in response to a parliamentary question by Opposition MP Robert Cutajar. 

However, speaking to MaltaToday, Michael Cassar pointed out that the police had investigated around 33 football corruption cases in 2013, some of which led to court convictions. 

Opposition MP calls for fight against match-fixing

In an impassioned speech in parliament on Tuesday, Opposition MP David Agius called for a united stand against football corruption. 

“Those who want to investigate money laundering know where to start,” Agius said in the parliamentary debate on money laundering. “A journalist who recently spread awareness about the prevalence of match-fixing through his programme was warned not to speak out too heavily because he is dealing with dangerous people. Why should people fighting against wrongdoing be scared?” 

Referring to Tabone’s newsletter, Agius pointed out that no football club president, secretary or treasurer has yet called Tabone out for lying or erring. 

With regard to the betting statistics, Agius said that people betting on Maltese games win an average of €157 million per year. 

“I’m not referring to any particular club but Malta is a small place where everyone knows everyone,” Agius said. “There have been cases where people approached young goalkeepers in the street and threatened them to concede two goals in their next game.  

“The government, the MFA, the Malta Gaming Authority and the police should all do as much as possible to clean Maltese football up. Today it’s football, but tomorrow it might be another sport.”