Insider Sport: On the ball – Cypriot investigations launch as FIFA enhances integrity controls

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This week’s OTB reports on FIFA launching its integrity toolkit, Cypriot match-fixing investigations, the Bundesliga’s latest technology partnership, and Arsenal’s stadium going cashless.

FIFA announces integrity toolkit launch

Building on the integrity programme it developed and implemented during the 2018 World Cup, FIFA, world football’s governing body, has announced the launch of an enhanced integrity toolkit.

The new toolkit, which features updated integrity programme resources, aims to not only protect the sport, but also looks to provide help to member associations and confederations in regards to the strengthening and further enhancement of existing measures that protect national and regional-level football matches and competitions from match manipulation.

Oliver Jaberg, FIFA’s Deputy Chief Legal & Compliance Officer and Director of Integrity and Institutional Legal, stated: “In line with FIFA’s continued commitment to safeguard the integrity of football around the world, it is crucial that we continue to develop new and innovative resources that our stakeholders can use to further strengthen football across all areas – both on and off the pitch.”

As well as this, FIFA has also developed a ‘practical handbook’ for its members which is set to serve as a guide on how to build and/or strengthen their own integrity initiatives.

Jaberg added: “As an important step in helping to protect the integrity of football competitions at national and regional level as well as to prevent match manipulation, FIFA is excited to have developed several new integrity resources and materials that provide member associations and confederations with specific assistance on best practice in football.”

The new Integrity e-Learning tool is aimed at educating individuals involved in the sport about the threat of match manipulation. It describes the applicable regulations that have been put in place by FIFA, explains various forms of integrity-related misconduct and outlines how to correctly report match-manipulation approaches or incidents.

Cypriot match-fixing cases urges police to act quickly

Notifications sent by UEFA, European football’s governing body, to the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) regarding possible match-fixing has resulted in police investigations within Cypriot football.

The notifications sent by UEFA are in regards to suspicious betting activity being recorded in five fixtures – Ermis Aradippou v Digenis Morphou, Onisilos Sotiras v Digenis, and Othelos Athienou v Xylotymbou plus two cup fixtures.

With the CFA stating that the reports have been forwarded to the police, Justice Minister George Savvides has urged Cypriot law enforcement to act swiftly: “I have given clear instructions to the chief of police and members of the force to immediately proceed with the necessary actions. I want to emphasise anew that the government’s policy is zero tolerance on all forms of corruption.”

Regarding the two cup ties, the first fixture saw first division side AEK Larnaca take on Karmiotissa of the second division with UEFA assigning blame on the latter, and the second fixture, which has not had responsibility assigned, seeing Pafos FC take on Ayia Napa.

In total, roughly 80 notices have been received by the CFA in recent years, however, despite the frequent alerts drawn to UEFA’s attention regarding Cyprus’ second division and cup games, no arrests have yet been made. 

With this being said, the CFA has looked to impose stricter penalties on perceived match-fixing, with the association deciding to cut season funding to teams involved and also introducing a points deduction and fines if a team participated in two suspect matches. 

The Cypriot FA also stated that it would look to implement a five-year ban on clubs who are subject to five-match inquires. 

Bundesliga agrees innovative AWS technology deal

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Bundesliga, Germany’s top-flight football league, has announced a groundbreaking partnership that sees it become the world’s first football league to work with the e-commerce giants computing subsidiary.

AWS will take up the role of the official technology provider to the Bundesliga and is set to provide the league with access to its machine learning and analytics with the aim of developing a ‘next-generation football viewing experience’.

Christian Seifert, chief executive of the German Football League (DFL), stated: “Innovation means challenging the status quo. Working closely with AWS as one of the most innovative technology companies in the world significantly enhances the investment we’ve made in innovation over the past two decades, all of which contributes to us being able to deliver a world-class football experience for our fans.”

The partnership, which took effect when the Bundesliga restarts following its winter break, will see ‘powered by AWS’ statistics begin to be incorporated into the league’s multi-platform broadcast coverage.

Klaus Bürg, AWS managing director in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, added: “ What’s typically happening is there is a huge amount of data that the teams [or leagues] have challenges to drive value out of.

“If you think about Formula 1, we have terabytes of data which can give a huge value to fans and the rights-holder itself. In that sense it [the Bundesliga partnership] is pretty similar to what we have done for Formula 1, NFL, MLB or Six Nations.

“It’s around building a statistics platform which enables real-time processing by applying machine learning and analytics, but also giving a much better experience about what’s happening on the field on mobile, online streaming and television. There is no replication but the concepts are similar.

“There are many things that we can do working together based on the scale and the reach AWS can provide. We should see that there will be other things coming out of this collaboration which we can look forward to in the next couple of months and years.”

Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium joins the cashless revolution

Arsenal FC has become the latest Premier League club to go cashless, elevating efficiency for matchday experiences at the Emirates Stadium.

Tom McCann, Arsenal’s Venue Director, commented: “93% of our stadium transactions are currently made via card payment. By moving to a fully cashless operation, our fans can expect to experience increased speed and shorter queue times at our bars and kiosks.

“Over the forthcoming matchdays and events, we will promote the move to a cashless stadium to prepare our fans for this change on 1 March.”

As part of the move, all bars, restaurants, kiosks, programme sellers and retail outlets inside the stadium will accept card payment only from Sunday, March 1, 2020.

The move, which also applies to non-matchday events and venue hire, sees Arsenal join a myriad of other leading sports teams and European football clubs in going cashless, including North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

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