NEWS
10/17/2011 12:49 EDT | Updated 12/17/2011 05:12 EST

FIFA official says rewards, amnesty for match-fixers to be introduced in 2012

LONDON - FIFA will offer financial rewards and amnesty for information on match-fixing and other corruption in soccer, the organization's security chief said Monday.

"This is new ground for sport," Chris Eaton said. "I'm afraid criminals have changed the nature of sport."

Eaton has found mounting evidence that international and club matches are being targeted by criminal gangs who bribe players and referees. Match-fixing scandals have tarnished leagues in Turkey, Italy, Israel, Finland and Greece this year.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made tackling corruption — both within his organization and in leagues around the world — a priority for his fourth term and will unveil his plans later this week in Switzerland.

Eaton gave a preview of those plans in London, estimating that total gambling in football is worth 1 trillion Euros (C$1.4 trillion) a year and that 1 billion Euros (C$1.4 billion) can be placed on a single Premier League match alone.

"We're going to have a rewards program for one month from January, followed then by a hotline and amnesty program probably for three months, all managed independently," Eaton said at the Professional Players Federation conference. "This will then be followed by an assessment program, followed by some sort of amnesty for the players who have been unfairly compromised, and there'll be rehabilitation for those players."

After the first half of 2012, FIFA will then implement "the Sepp Blatter doctrine — which is absolute zero tolerance," the former Australian police officer said.

Eaton said not all rewards would be financial and complete immunity cannot be offered to whistle-blowers.

"We can't give an amnesty from criminal prosecution," he said. "It will be the first time that (rewards and amnesties) have been offered by FIFA, perhaps any sporting body — allowing players, administrators and officials to make a clean breast of it."

FIFA asked Transparency International for advice on cleaning up world football, and Eaton said he backs the global anti-corruption watchdog's view that whistle-blowers who have evidence need protection.

By confessing to corruption, offenders can lessen the penalty they receive from FIFA's ethics committee.

"I expect players to come forward," Eaton said. "I have been involved now with FIFA for 12 months and I have already had many players approaching me with information, no matter the consequences.

"In their heart, they love their sport. In their heart, they love their country. In their heart, they want to do the right thing."

Tony Higgins, from international players' union FIFPro, raised doubts about players coming forward.

"They are terrified of filing in an anonymous questionnaire in the first instance," Higgins said.

Higgins also questioned why players would trust any soccer federation when they might not have been paid for a year?