(WFI) FIFA president Sepp Blatter is meeting the Interpol secretary general Ronald K. Noble next week to establish a closer cooperation in the fight against illegal betting and match-fixing in football.

The talks on Monday form part of concerted efforts by world football’s governing body to combat the growing threat of corrupt betting and match-rigging scams.

Blatter and Noble will hold a press conference at 4pm CET to announce the outcome of talks.

Last month, Blatter spoke of the dangers and risks facing football from illegal gambling and match-fixing at a Sports Funding, Sponsoring, and Sports Betting Congress in Zurich.

“Match fixing shakes the very foundations of sport, namely fair play, respect and discipline. That’s why FIFA employs a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any infringement of these values,” Blatter told the conference.

FIFA’s subsidiary company Early Warning System GmbH has monitored betting markets relating to FIFA competitions since 2004; EWS is also now used to observe betting patterns in various club competitions.

In February, the EWS system helped detect two friendly matches in Turkey identified as being suspicious. Following an investigation into unusual betting patterns, FIFA charged six match officials for their involvement in fixing the Bulgaria 2-2 draw with Estonia and Latvia’s 2-1 victory over Bolivia. All seven goals were scored from penalties.

Blatter has since called on governments and their law enforcement divisions to help FIFA in its efforts to stamp out match-fixing and betting scandals.

“Nobody has anything against gambling,” Marco Villiger, FIFA’s director of legal affairs told the March conference. “Our goal is to protect the integrity of sport and to fight against practices that undermine it. Fraud and match fixing are threats to the core values of sport.”

UEFA implemented its own Betting Fraud Detection System in 2008 which detects irregular betting patterns in club matches. Around 100 million bets are checked every day, with around 29,000 club matches covered since its inception.

It is estimated that the sports industry generates around $300 billion a year. Sports betting has an approximate annual worth of $350-400 billion.

The International Olympic Committee has also begin to step up its crackdown on illegal and irregular betting. It says match-fixing is the biggest threat to world sport and estimates that around $140 billion of the yearly turnover in the gambling industry is achieved through illegal bets.

In February, IOC president Jacques Rogge met with Interpol officials and government ministers from a handful of countries as well as representatives from international sports federations, the European Union, United Nations and sports betting operators at a summit in Lausanne.

Labelling illegal and irregular betting as a “major threat” for Olympic sports “probably at the same level as doping”, Rogge urged governments to tighten sports gambling legislation. The IOC has set up a task force to tackle illegal and irregular sports betting.

Rogge said that while the Olympic Games has yet to be hit by a betting scandal, the Olympic Movement should not be “naive” that it wouldn’t happen unless pre-emptive measures were taken.

The IOC’s Early Warning System, modelled on the FIFA system, was deployed at the last two Olympics in Vancouver and Beijing and will again be in operation for the London 2012 Olympics.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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