GENEVA (AN) — An international treaty against match-fixing in sports competitions took force on Sunday, marking what proponents called significant progress in the fight against rigged gambling, bribery and other rampant corruption.
The Macolin Convention, formally called the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, has been signed by dozens of nations but required at least five members of the Council of Europe, or COE, to ratify it before it could take effect.
It has now been ratified by six members: Italy, Moldova, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and Ukraine.
Under the legally binding treaty, a committee will be set up to create procedural rules and a mandate. Among the chief aims is to expand ratification and technical cooperation among nations, said Mikhael De Thyse, the the convention secretary, in an interview with the Global Lottery Monitoring System, or GLMS, which monitors the integrity of sports competitions.
The convention was negotiated in the Swiss city of Macolin, also known as Magglingen, which is home to the Swiss Federal Institute of Sport, a university that supports the education of Swiss emerging and elite athletes.
World football's governing body FIFA has long regarded match-fixing by illegal betting syndicates as the biggest threat to football's integrity. FIFA was pushed to the limit by the much-publicized bribery and corruption scandal that erupted in 2015 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s sprawling investigation of international football corruption.
Since then FIFA has been trying to restore the public trust it lost from the scandal when it was under the direction of FIFA’s longtime chief Sepp Blatter, a Swiss sports administrator since the 1970s. The organization has shaken up its top ranks and put in place various internal reforms aimed at reassuring the public.
More recently, it has reportedly been weighing a plan to relocate its Swiss headquarters to somewhere that might be more conducive to hiring non-Europeans and less renowned for corporate secrecy.
"The fight against match manipulation is a priority for FIFA," the Zürich-based organization said. "We look forward to continuing our collaboration with COE to protect the integrity of football."
European sports ministers met to work out the treaty at a COE-hosted conference at Macolin in September 2014. Their action came in response to a global problem of fraudulent betting in sports that often involves transnational, organized crime syndicates, according to the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, or Europol.
"The Council of Europe is at the forefront of the adoption of important international legal instruments to tackle sports corruption more effectively, in particular through the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions — the only international, legally binding text to exist in the field," Europol said in a statement.