Match-fixing is not only the biggest threat to organised sport, it is also a societal ailment on a much broader scale, comprising of far-reaching crime syndicates targeting players, as pawns.
Historically, sport governing bodies and law enforcement, have been trying to tackle this corruption by providing harsh punishments for the people at the very bottom of the crime chain. These are often, players, referees, or club officials, who have been approached by seedy individuals and who may, or may not, have been threatened to comply.
Moreover, FIFA rules also impose heavy sporting sanctions on players who, despite refusing to participate in match fixing, do not report the approach within a strict timeframe.
Essentially, players or individuals who have been approached, find themselves in an unenviable position, sandwiched between dangerous crime syndicates, and the full weight of the law.
Research shows, that whilst most players who are approached, refuse to participate in match-fixing, many are very afraid to go on record and do not voluntarily report the approach. This is usually because they fear retribution by these syndicates, onto themselves and their families, far more than they fear sanctions.
In the end, what we find ourselves with, is a lose-lose situation. Players who fear retribution, do not report and thus expose themselves to hefty sporting sanctions.
Whilst at the same time, law enforcement loses out on invaluable new information that can help them get to the real criminals.
Since 2012, FIFPro the World’s Football Players’ Union, of which the Malta Football Players Association is a full member, has been developing the Red Button app.
The aim was to provide players with a reporting mechanism that preserved their anonymity.
In 2018, following encouraging results, an improved Red Button App 2.0 was launched. This attracted a wider audience across the football world.
Finally, in 2020, the Red Button app 3.0 was launched. This is a web application developed in Finland and built by a company which makes high-security software for banks. It was designed specifically to provide an anonymous reporting mechanism for match-fixing.
The app was tested by Interpol who deemed it as the best there is.
Carlo Mamo, General Secretary of the Malta Football Players Association, said that MFPA has been campaigning to have the Red Button App implemented as one of the reporting mechanisms available locally as well.
He believes that “with the implementation of the Red Button App players will be able to report without fear and avoid facing disciplinary action for failing to report a match-fixing approach.”
It is not irrational to conclude that crime syndicates will target areas in which they perceive as less risky, with less chances of being caught.
It is a known fact that they often target small and quasi amateur leagues like Malta, which are played with much less international scrutiny. If on top of this, Malta starts lagging behind other nations in gathering valuable information, we may unknowingly be branding ourselves as a haven for such illicit activity.
Adversely, having effective reporting mechanisms, including the possibility to do so anonymously, has the added bonus of acting as a disincentive.
This year, MFPA has launched the Red Button App in Malta as well. Licensing expenses are completely covered by the Maltese Players’ Union and FIFPRO.
As of this summer, members of MFPA can request a unique code, which allows them to access the web-app.
Codes are randomly assigned, and there is no way to link a code to the player. Via this web-app the player can submit an anonymous report which is completely untraceable.
After comprehensive review of all relevant aspects, it is clear that the introduction of anonymous reports via safe and legitimate tools, provides benefits that far outweigh any possible downsides.
The ‘Red Button App’ is a crucial tool in the fight against match fixing.