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A small but significant victory in the war against match-fixing. FIFPro has observed that the match-fixing alert system of the Finnish professional footballers association (JPY) is proving that it can prevent manipulation of football matches.

During the summer of 2013, international criminal organisations contacted Finnish footballers on several occasions in an effort to manipulate football matches. The players approached reacted by reporting the match-fixing attempts via the alert system introduced by the players union.

In March 2013, just before the start of the Finnish football season, the players union launched its project in which footballers can use the so-called Players Red Button app on their mobile telephone, to make an anonymous report of any witnessed attempt to manipulate a match. The application also informs players of the likely approaches fixers make and feeds all the information back to the authorities. After union representatives had visited all Finnish professional football clubs, the Players Red Button app was downloaded more than 1,200 times. Virtually every professional footballer in Finland has installed the app.

The app proved its value, as in the summer of 2013, various players used the app to secretly and confidentially report attempts to manipulate matches. All reports were directly transferred to a security company.

JPY Executive Manager Markus Juhola said: "The exact number of these reports from the players is not essential, it is essential that our system works".

"Unfortunately, there are still people trying to influence the players. They contact the players and try to make the players act fraudulently. That is what we want to prevent with this system".

"We – as a players union - have done our work. It was our duty to go into the dressing rooms and inform and protect the players, who have responded by using the app. Now it is up to the authorities to do their job: get the fixers and sanction them".

According to Juhola, the biggest threats are still the international criminal organisations which are systematically organising the match-fixing. He was both surprised and disturbed by the news that convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal was arrested in Helsinki last week. The reason for his arrest is still unknown. This Singaporean criminal had already been jailed in Finland in 2011 as the mastermind behind a match-fixing scandal that hit the country's football league. According to reports, Singaporean authorities have requested Perumal's extradition.

The Finnish professional football season is scheduled during summer when most of the leagues worldwide are out of season. This is why matches in Finnish Divisions I and II are a part of the global betting market.

Taking this into account, Juhola states that Finnish football should be cautious. "In most cases, the criminal organisations are trying to influence those players whom they expect to be easiest to influence. It is a fact that good and safe working conditions and punctual salary payments reduce the risk of match-fixing. When these working conditions or payments are being neglected, the footballer becomes very vulnerable for approaches by match-fixers".

Juhola welcomes the fact that the football players and the union can rely on the app. "I think this application should be tested with other players unions as well".

FIFPro is financing the Players Red Button project, which is seen as a pilot for future introduction in other countries which are participating in Don't Fix It, the education and prevention programme to fight match-fixing in football. The experiences of the Finnish players union will be used to assess whether the warning system can be introduced in other countries.

 

Click on the link below for a video of the presentation about the Players Red Button app, given by Panu Autio (Vice-Chairman of the Finnish players union) during the Sports Integrity Day Conference in Helsinki on 10 April 2014.

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