What is FIFA’s Early Warning System?

FIFA’s Early Warning System (EWS) has been around since 2005. Its aim is to use preventative strategies and early detection to safeguard football against suspicious activities in sports betting. It aims to prevent match manipulation by utilising data gathered from the sports betting market across the world. The amount of data gathered is vast and the task monumental.  However, the EWS are experts in this field, also offering monitoring through third parties outside of football and covering numerous sports organisations, media outlets, locations etc.  

Early Warning System banner

Partnership with Perform Group

A co-operation was formed with the media company Perform Group brand Opra on 19th August 2015. In the fight against match-fixing, Opra are a valuable asset. They are a global supplier of performance data in the world of sports with ties to the largest broadcasters in the world. This partnership greatly improves the detection ability of suspicious behaviour by vastly increasing the data available to spot any possible indicators. Data is the greatest weapon any organisation can have in the fight against match manipulation and fixing.

Matthew Drew, Performance Director of Integrity and Security, said this of the partnership: “Perform fully supports EWS and its commitment to monitor and respond to the threat of match manipulation. We are delighted that Perform digital content can so readily be used in partnership with rights holders in order to strengthen the integrity of competitions. We look forward to cooperating with EWS for the benefit of FIFA competitions and those of its associations and confederations for a long time to come.” 

Perform Group partnership

FIFA’s Director of Security, Ralf Mutschke added: “This cooperation with a leading sports data service provider is a perfect fit for our monitoring approach to ensure an effective and fact-based match analysis. Perform is a very strong partner in the global fight against match manipulation, and such cooperation represents a fundamental keystone of our overall strategy.”

This partnership represents the strongest method of prevention and detection of match manipulation, with a greater reach and more information being gathered than ever before. This level of expertise is only possible due to technological advances and represents a great leap forward with regards to protecting the authenticity and reputation of football.

History of FIFA’s Early Warning System

FIFA signFounded in 2005, FIFA’s Early Warning System was created with technology in mind. Sports betting had changed dramatically over the previous ten years. In fact, it had changed dramatically in virtually every year since the new millennium, as the gaming community adapted to the brave new world of online gaming. Not only were more people gaming than ever, but now they were betting live in a completely new setting.

On the other hand, this new technology made it possible to get beneath the skin of the gaming community. The nature of online gambling made gathering information possible in a way that was previously unthinkable. So as much as the changes in technology gave the sports world new challenges with regards to potential suspicious activity, match manipulation and even match fixing, it also allowed for an amazing opportunity to get a handle of these issues in a way that was previously not possible.

Online football betting

This opportunity has found its realisation in FIFA’s Early Warning System. Before 2006, FIFA had trialled a system in time for the World Cup that year. The use of that scheme was considered a run away success for that tournament. After this incredible opening run, the system was brought in permanently by the FIFA congress. The system was finalised and the Early Warning System was made official for future tournaments on July 7th 2007.

At this time, the EWS opened an office in Zurich, where they held staff focused solely on creating the greatest sports betting fraud detection system ever devised. Since then, live betting has further complicated the market, making suspicious activity increasingly difficult to spot. It’s for this reason that such a system is absolutely necessary in keeping the reputation of football in tact. In the breakneck speed modern world of online gaming, the old methods of detecting irregularities would be completely obsolete in this new world. FIFA’s Early Warning System came about at exactly the right time to prevent a major gap in the advancing technologies and the ability of sporting bodies to adapt to more sophisticated manipulation techniques.

What does the Early Warning System do?

FIFA EWS logo

In order to keep up with this demand, the EWS has a three pronged approach to this ever changing market. First of all, the Early Warning System works in conjecture with a vast array of international betting operators and regulators. FIFA brings together all these institutions to exchange information on any strange betting activity. This means the EWS is a truly international, multi-faceted operation.

This communication is private and is utilised through a secure communication platform agreed upon by the organisations exchanging information. Keeping these exchanges discreet is an important part of maintaining the trust which allows these operators and regulators to have such a fruitful relationship.

FIFA's Early Warning System monitoring

Secondly, the EWS operates a Technical Monitoring System. This is an incredibly technologically advanced system for gathering information and analysing that information to get an overview of any possible activities that needs further attention throughout an international sports betting market. This includes looking at the differences in odds, betting offers and track market liquidity all together in order to understand the ever changing global market. Without this technology, it would only be possible to see part of the picture. With this technology, the EWS can get an overview of any possible suspicious behaviour and link those behaviours in order to prevent any discredit to the sport.

Thirdly, there’s the information network, which allows clients to pick and choose how the Early Warning System’s specialists will tackle their individual needs. FIFA gives support and guidance into the best methods of investigation and possible sanctions. The EWS is so successful, it is considered an Independent Centre of Intelligence worldwide.

Famous examples of match fixing

Red card football

The British betting scandal of 1964

Jimmy Gault, a former player for several clubs, including Mansfield Town, Swindon Town Plymouth Argyle and St Johnstone, interfered with matches in the Football League over a period spanning several years throughout the sixties. It began in 1962 when Gauld and Sheffield Wednesday’s David Layne conspired to intentionally lose a match to Ipswich Town. In order to ensure they succeeded, they recruited Peter Swan and Tony Kay. All three bet against their own side, which they lost 2-0.

Many other matches were fixed for profit before the scam was uncovered by the Sunday People. Gauld then sold his story to the paper and threw his associates under the bus in the process. Ten players in total were sent to trial in 1965. Interestingly, this incident is also a part of British legal history, as it marked the first time time taped evidence was used in court.

Jimmy Gault was sentenced to four years in prison after taped conversations were used to convict him and several others who received lesser sentences, spanning between 15 and 4 months.

Bundesliga scandal

In 2005, one of the biggest stories of match fixing in the history of the sport was uncovered to the tune of €2 million. It was a scheme masterminded by the second division referee Robert Hoyzer. This was not the first time this had occurred either. The first Bundesliga scandal took place between 1970-1971 in the German Football Championship. Several games were manipulated by a total of 52 players, two managers and six club functionaries (as far as we’re aware, more could have been involved but were not convicted).

Although that scandal may have had more people behind it, it could not match the 2005 scandal in terms of the money involved. Coming right before the 2006 World Cup, of which Germany were the hosts, the scandal was a black eye for German football. The crime was discovered after four referees went to the German Football Association with their suspicions of Hoyzer. Officers discovered that the referee had connections to a Croatian crime syndicate, who were convicted with sentences varying between 35 to 12 months for their participation in the scam.

Examples of match fixing methods include giving up an 80th minute own goal to manipulate the final score and awarding a number of unjustified penalties to push their preferred team to victory.

Brazilian football match-fixing scandal

Referees Edilson Pereira de Carvalho and Paulo Jose Danelon were bribed to fix match results based on what was most profitable for betting sites Futbet and Aebet. Edilson claims he received $10,00 to fix a match between Juventude and Figueirense and was generally paid between $10,000 to $15,000 per match. He claimed to have accepted the money due to being in a large amount of debt.  

He was banned for life from the job by the First Disciplinary Commission, as was Paulo. Eleven matches refereed by Edilson were annulled by the Supreme Court Of Sporting Justice. These bans were appealed by several winning clubs, such as Ponte Preta, Cruzeiro and Santos, but the decision stood. The nulled games were also taken to court on November 28th by lawyer Louis Carlos Crema, but the Supreme Court of Justice rejected the demand.