FIFA investigated 20 match-fixing incidents in 2012

FIFA security director Ralf Mutschke told reporters Wednesday that soccer's governing body was involved in 20 match-fixing investigations last year and that the problem might worsen.

Soccer leagues vulnerable to corruption worldwide

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has reason to be concerned with chronic match-fixing in soccer. (Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images)

FIFA security director Ralf Mutschke warned Wednesday that football has "a long way to go" to defeat match-fixing by organized crime gangs.

FIFA was involved in 20 match-fixing investigations worldwide last year and Mutschke told reporters the problem could get worse because 100 national leagues are vulnerable to corruption when crime syndicates can so easily bet on matches online.

"FIFA is not going to eradicate match-fixing or corruption," Mutschke said at a briefing ahead of a two-day European conference on fighting match-fixing, which opens Thursday in Italy.

The German former Interpol official accepted that "realistically, there is no way" FIFA can tackle organized crime, which has targeted betting on football as a profitable scam with low risks of being caught, prosecuted or sentenced heavily.

Mutschke said FIFA needs more help from national law enforcement agencies worldwide, and has asked Interpol to persuade its members to help protect the world's most popular sport.

Mutschke said the "the key to success" of his long-term strategy, shaped since joining FIFA last June, is raising integrity levels by educating referees, players and officials to resist approaches by fixers.

"I rely on law enforcement to take care of organized crime, and I would like to take care about the football family," said Mutschke, who is undertaking a global series of meetings with security officials from FIFA's 209 national members.

Still, he acknowledged difficulties in creating a "global alert network" of dedicated integrity officers employed by each member to help police the 1,500 national-team competitions matches and friendlies that FIFA has responsibility for each year.

"This is my challenge and this is my greatest doubt," Mutschke said at FIFA headquarters. "I will probably fail in doing so, but at least I would like to say I tried."

UEFA has led by example, deciding in March 2011 to create a similar network among its 53 members. That initiative followed UEFA's work with prosecutors in Bochum, Germany, to break up a syndicate which fixed matches across Europe, including bribing a Bosnian referee to help fix a 2010 World Cup qualifier played between Liechtenstein and Finland.

FIFA, UEFA and Interpol will lead the two-day conference in Rome, as Italy continues to deal with its own damaging case: Juventus coach Antonio Conte has served a four-month ban for not reporting evidence and several Serie A clubs had points deducted.

Mutschke praised the model of co-operation between Italian police, prosecutors and the football association.

"This should be, and has to be, the response," Mutschke told The Associated Press in a separate interview. "I think this is the only reaction we could present to the entire world [to show] that we take the fight against match-fixing seriously."

'Little successes'

FIFA has had some "little successes" in stopping corruption lately, Mutschke said.

Three match officials reported to FIFA several months ago that they were approached by a fixer while heading to the stadium.

"We could identify the guy. He's part of an FA and he's under investigation and he will be kicked out," said Mutschke, adding the incident was "not in Europe."

Such brazen invitations to corruption have a 50-per cent chance of success, Mutschke claimed, and make him "really crazy and upset."

"It demonstrates to me that they have no fear," the 33-year German police veteran said. "They have no fear from us because nobody is reporting these approaches.

"My goal has to be to change the mentality within the [soccer] community."

Cold-calling was also a tactic of Wilson Raj Perumal, the Singaporean who is notorious in match-fixing history and is currently in protective custody in Hungary after serving jail time in Finland.

"I have traces of Perumal in more than 50 countries," said Mutschke, who insisted FIFA had not dropped some of the investigations started by his predecessor, Chris Eaton. "We are still interested in cleaning up [old cases], but it is difficult."