(WFI) The International Centre for Sport Security has delivered its first match-fixing education and prevention workshops to young players in Tanzania, the first steps into Africa for the organisation’s initiative.

As part of the ICSS’s commitment to educate young players about the dangers of match-fixing, officials from the Qatar-based organization earlier this month held workshops for young players and officials at the Tanzanian Football Federation, the Symbion /Sunderland AFC Project – Africa’s first privately-owned football academy – and the Tanzania Street Children’s Sports Academy.

Aimed at educating 12- to 18-year-old footballers playing at an academy level as well as children in more vulnerable areas in Tanzania, the programme kicked-off with a presentation to the Tanzania Under-17 Squad at the Karume National Stadium. Rising football stars from the Symbion Football Academy – a joint academy and football development project between Symbion Power, Sunderland AFC and the Tanzanian Government – attended the seminars alongside leading officials and coaches from the TFF.

Players attending the seminars learnt about a range of topics, including how match-fixers approach and groom young players and methods to help recognise, resist and report an approach. They were also warned about the serious consequences of match-fixing, which can land offenders in jail or with lifetime bans from football.

Stuart Page, ICSS director of strategy and policy development, tells INSIDER that the threat of match-fixing looms larger than ever before because of the explosion in online gambling, the involvement of organised crime networks and the fact that governments and law enforcement agencies have not viewed it as a priority.

At the Brazil World Cup, an estimated $2.7 billion was being gambled per match; one leading online sport betting operator took approximately $270 million per match in Europe and Asia. The ICSS said that about $5 billion was gambled on the FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Argentina – only $1.25 billion of this is understood to be legal.

With these startling figures in mind, Page said educating the youth about corruption and match-fixing in sport was vital.
“One of the biggest things is to get people to understand… to stop it where players are most vulnerable,” he said, noting how match-fixers can exploit young and poor footballers by offering them riches in exchange for their cooperation in rigging games.

Page said they used case studies to show matches that had been fixed to help more players in the future recognise, resist and report approaches by match-fixers.

“We’re giving them [youngsters] hope where they see sometimes there is none, and understanding,” he said.

The ICSS official said match-fixing was “starting to be a cancer in the sport”. “We don’t do enough to people coming up and especially in developing countries to those who need a hand,” he added.

Asked why the ICSS chose to launch its initiative in Tanzania, he underlined how a private investor and a professional football club in Sunderland “decided to take matters into their own hands, building an academy and stadium”.

Sunderland’s African Outreach

Stewart Hall, technical director of the Symbion / Sunderland AFC Project and technical advisor to the TFF, told INSIDER that he hoped the programme of workshops would help Tanzania to produce young players and coaches “that believe in maintaining the highest possible standards and integrity both on and off the pitch”.

Hall emphasised Sunderland’s big interest in Africa; the club has two South African sponsors and links with Ghana and Nigeria. Tanzania is relatively new territory.

After Tanzania, the ICSS is targeting other African countries including Uganda and Ghana.

“The idea is to keep spreading the message, consolidating the training and expanding to north Africa, investing in youth and sport and football,” Page said.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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