“Integrity is the glue that holds together the spirit of competition.” – Football Associations Panel discussion on Integrity.

International Sports Convention, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 20th March 2024

Football Associations panel discussion on integrity

Abi Ijasanmi, Former COO – Confederation of African Football

Jakub Čavoj, Integrity Officer – Slovakia Football Association

Tarik Shamel, Head of Integrity – The Football Association

Affy Sheikh, Head of Starlizard Integrity Services – Starlizard Integrity Services Tatjana Haenni, Chief Sporting Director – National Women’s Soccer League

Affy Sheikh starting by emphasising why the integrity and unpredictability of sport is so important.

“Integrity is the glue that holds together the spirit of competition.”

Sheikh stressed the impact of football on society at large. “Football is a global phenomenon. Safeguarding the integrity of football is a commitment.”

The panel outlined the wide topic of integrity, it is not just around match-fixing.

Abi Ijasanmi said her time working across 54 countries within the Confederation of African Football had been: “Interesting and eye-opening.” Her remit covered all aspects of integrity including ‘age manipulation’ where an older player takes part in a youth competition. She explained that issues arise in Africa where not all births are recorded. Medical assessment has been used to try and establish age, but she pointed out that this crosses into the area of human rights.

Jakub Cavoj said that it is not just around betting manipulation and picked out a case of referee bribery in the Slovakian third division.

Tarik Shamel explained that on the football pitch the issue is not only match-fixing, but includes incident-fixing, such as ‘card manipulation’-the issuing of yellow cards in matches.

Tatjana Haenni highlighted that the area of integrity includes safeguarding. She talked about serious problems that women’s football in the USA has had in the past including sexual abuse and harassment. Measures have been put in place that include forbidding relationships between coaches and players, and that concerns can now be reported anonymously.

Shamel agreed that there are the same risks in women’s football around betting and match manipulation as in the men’s game, and stressed that cooperation with partners such as UEFA is vital.

Cavoj emphasised that investigations can be dangerous: “Our main suspect was carrying a gun.”

A wide-ranging discussion included the problems of cross-border investigations and regulated and unregulated betting. Shamel said that there is a need to keep the ‘card market’ (ie betting on yellow cards) in the regulated market, otherwise ‘it just goes elsewhere.’ Sheikh thought there wasn’t a great deal of evidence of that happening.