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‘Match-fixing in Malta even more widespread’

MFA integrity officer Franz Tabone. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

MFA integrity officer Franz Tabone. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Match-fixing in Maltese football is more widespread than an inter­national study by the global players’ union has indicated, a top Malta Football Association official said.

Integrity officer Franz Tabone sounded this warning when the Times of Malta sought his reaction in the wake of the findings in the 2016 Fifpro Global Employment Report.

“I definitely think there is a higher incidence of match-fixing approaches to players,” the MFA integrity officer told this newspaper.

According to the study, which was based on anonymous feedback from 112 Premier League players, almost one out of every six footballers (15.5 per cent) playing in the Premier Division had been offered a bribe sometime throughout their career. Moreover, 18.2 per cent said they were aware of match-fixing in the league.

In a statement, the MFA welcomed the report saying it would be analysing its findings. While urging players to come forward with any information of match-fixing attempts, it pointed out that they would be given whistle-blower protection. Moreover, it noted that the Malta Football Players Association, which is affiliated to Fifpro, was recently granted observer status on the MFA council.

However, Mr Tabone, who does not shy away from controversy, believes that when it comes to corruption the local situation is more alarming.

“I have been talking about this problem for quite some time. The situation is what it is and we are trying to get support from law-enforcement authorities.

“Nothing surprises me at this stage except for the low percentages flagged in the study,” he said.

In January last year Mr Tabone shocked the local football scene when he claimed that the Maltese game was “infested” with corruption and that some clubs were financing their operation through this illicit activity. A task force which was set up in the wake of these claims is set to draft a Bill by the end of this year with the aim of toughening existing anti-corruption regulations.

Meanwhile, MPFA deputy general secretary Konrad Sultana had a more cautious reaction to the report’s findings.

“While the rate of match-fixing approaches made to players is realistic, my personal view is that it is rather conservative,” he said.

The study also sounded alarm bells on the issue of belated payments to players, saying Malta had the highest rate in Europe.

“This finding reflects the lack of revenue streams of Maltese football clubs, which could be partly addressed by a Bill proposing the commercialisation of their premises,” he said.

“On the other hand, clubs cannot keep relying exclusively on some sugar daddy,” Mr Sultana added.

He noted that the acute financial situation affecting the local game was one of the factors hindering Maltese football in general.

“It is unlikely that a promising teenager will turn down an attractive job offer to focus on his football career, for fear that he would run into financial difficulties.”

As for issues related to belated payments, Mr Sultana said that for part-time players the only option was to seek redress with the MFA, as any attempt to go to court would trigger a suspension from all competitions. In the case of full-time players, the contract would be rescinded if no payment was effected after a number of months.

On a positive note, he said that talks between the players’ union and the MFA to solve the issue of late payments for part-time players were going in the right direction, but did not divulge further details.

 

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