Online gambling on football matches in Asia has reached hundreds of millions of dollars each season – with the risk that those involved in making or receiving large scale bets would seek to manipulate the results by threats or bribes of the players, managers or officials.
Malaysia and the Malaysia Super League (Liga Super Malaysia) is a keen target for such match fixers seeking to cream off winnings from the illegal bookmakers.
To combat this threat, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has engaged FIFA’s Early Warning System (EWS) in an effort to combat the issue of match fixing in the country. The FIFA Early Warning System was implemented in August 2016 by the Malaysia Super League (MSL) and will also be extended to international matches hosted in Malaysia. The Football Association of Malaysia have been given a good deal as they won’t have to spend any money on the system, which normally sells for RM100,000 per football season.
The Early Warning System, which was started operations in 2007, is a fraud detection system that monitors betting trends to spot rapid changes in odds being offered and also provides match result analysis. The Early Warning System monitors FIFA competitions, including the World Cup and all qualifying matches, and also works closely with the Asian Football Associations.
Rumours of match-fixing in the Malaysia Super League are nothing new as a number of corruption scandals have surfaced in the past.
The low point for Malaysian football came in 1994-95, when more than one hundred footballers were disciplined with punishment ranging from life bans to suspensions from playing for up to four years. Investigations by Royal Malaysian Police found that there had been gross interference by gambling syndicates to fix the results of games – allegedly physically threatening players who refused to assist. Among those involved included Malek Rahman, Matlan Marjan and Azizol Abu Hanafiah. The arrests and punishments came under a law then known as ‘Emergency Ordinance’, where players could be detained and banished from the game if suspected of fixing matches [the law has since been repealed].
Malaysia came under the football match fixing spotlight again in 2009, when the Malaysian national team played friendly matches against Zimbabwe in Kuala Lumpur – but the games were arranged by notorious convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal, a Singapore national.
Malaysia managed to beat a higher-ranked Zimbabwe side 4-0 and 1-0 – raising suspicion with the Early Warning System and so the games were investigated by FIFA.
Following an investigation, FIFA revoked the ‘A’ international classification for both matches once it was discovered that a Zimbabwean club team, Monomotapa United, was masquerading as the Zimbabwean national team and were not approved by the Zimbabwean Football Association.
Also in 2009, Lesotho were beaten 5 to nil by Malaysia in a friendly game – with many Lesotho players witnessed going on a shopping spree after the game; generating suspicion as to whether the match result had been interfered with by outsiders.
Since this debacle in 2009, the Football Association of Malaysia has been working with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate suspect results and monitoring players, support staff and identified match fixers. In addition to providing data of betting trends, the Early Warning System will also provide
- a confidential whistle-blower system
- a dedicated integrity phone number and email address for anonymous tips to be submitted
- a monitoring process for all matches in the Malaysian Super League to identify results which may suggest match fixing has been involved
- an investigation unit to follow up on leads
The Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) Chief Executive Kevin Ramalingam said the implementation of a fraud detection system would uphold the league’s integrity. Kevin Ramalingam added the system will be able to pinpoint players who are likely involved in fixing matches.
Pen drive `of allegations’
Corruption and dishonesty within Malaysian football became a hot topic in September 2016 after
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin submitted a pen drive, supposedly containing documentary evidence of misconduct, to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Khairy Jamaluddin stated that he had received the pen drive from the Tengku Mahkota of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, in August 2016. The pen drive purportedly contained a 280-page report detailing misconduct and corruption within the Football Association of Malaysia.
However, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigation director Azam Baki later reported the commission had examined the contents of the pen drive, but found no evidence under the MACC Act 2009.