The action “Chistye nogi” (fittingly, “clean feet”), started by Novaya Gazeta and National Bookmaker Association (NBA) last year, got international recognition. Reminding, during the season of 2007 the newspaper working jointly with the leading NBA and football experts watched the fairness of the Russian premier league matches and gave the forecast. Then, after having made conclusions, the analysts called the most honest club of the previous season – that’s Khimky from near-Moscow region.
At the awarding ceremony Oleg Zhuravsky, the leading expert of the action and the President of NBA made everyone surprised with the news that FIFA got interested with the “Clean Feet” action and with the idea of awarding the most honest club. At the end of April Oleg Zhuravsky flew to Switzerland to have a meeting with FIFA representatives.
A system of “early warning” is already working with FIFA having same purpose of prevention the “arranged” matches. It’s exactly bookmakers that are counted on in this system. They report of odd changes in the coefficients and detect the suspiciously big stakes, passing all that information to the leadership of the world football. At present, the system is oriented to the World Cup 2010 that will be held in South Africa. The bookmakers and specialists will be detecting any signs of possible deals, during the preliminary and main stages of the competition. Besides, the system is being tested in some national football championships. It is planned that after World Cup 2010 the system will start working worldwide. The talks by Mr. Zhuravsky resulted in the fact that now Russian Bookmaker Association (jointly with other organizations from over 100 countries) has been included into the “early warning” system after signing an appropriate agreement with FIFA.
Oleg Zhuravsky told to a Novaya Gazeta correspondent that his meeting had been very constructive and Urs Scherer, the supervisor of the system mentioned, got interested in participation by a Russian representative in the project. In particular, he noted the proximity of the Russian championship to the Macedonian one in terms of level of corruption. Mr. Scherer also expressed his bewilderment about the fact the NBA representatives always called the “arranged” matches to be just “odd” ones, in Novaya Gazeta publications.
“That’s simple” answered Mr. Zhuravsky, “if we called those matches to be ‘arranged’ we should get suited and no doubt we should fail in suit”. “Really? And with us punished are those who take part in ‘arranged’ matches” the European continued to be perplexed.
On returning from Switzerland the National Bookmaker Association sent a letter to the name of the President of the Russian Football Union Vitaly Mutko, suggesting creation of the “early warning” system in the Russian championship.
Vitaly Mutko, President of RFU:
A: Yes, I received that letter. My attitude towards this suggestion is absolutely positive; however I must note I dislike badly the PR promotion. The matter is we had a meeting with NBA two years ago and we proposed then similar cooperation. But that meeting resulted in nothing significant. And after that a series of scandals followed where some bookmaker firms just tried to build up through making judgments about suspiciousness of some stakes taken. You remember the hue and cry about those publications? This is what I cannot bear. As for the idea itself, I know about it of course and I was present at FIFA meetings when the system was being started. I’m also aware that soon it may be extended to the level of national championships.
Q: In your opinion, is there necessity of creation of such a system in Russia?
A: Why not? The system is very simple: if they have some information or suspicions, they just tell us. It’s not much to be especially created. I shall repeat: two years ago I had a meeting with the NBA and other large bookmaker firms’ representatives and then I asked them to pass to our security service all the information so that we could see into those matches.
Q: It appears that there have been some cases with bookmakers sending information that got confirmed later but no measures were taken by the RFU…
A: It was not so. We did not receive any data. On the contrary, we had to deal with the problem on our own. Generally, the topic of stakes and bookmaker’s business is complex and it has many aspects. Just to close the today’s topic, I shall say that if someone wants to help us clean the Russian football, I am all for it.
Oleg Zhuravsky, President of NBA and the founder of the international bookmaker company “League of Stakes”:
A: The system has five levels of warning where the first one is the level of rumors and conjectures which are also paid attention to. It works semi-automatically. That means, at the first stage the computer and the technical workers collect information about odd changes of coefficients and stakes, and pass it to the representatives of the early warning system. Those get together and take a decision being based on the recieved information. They pass the information up to the FIFA leadership which is to decide whether any measures should be taken. When a necessity presents itself, they apply directly to the clubs and teams with the warning or demand to set the things right.
Q: Incidentally, Vitaly Mutko said about his positive attitude towards your initiative of the early warning system, but he complained that some bookmaker’s firms only use such good initiatives as a disguise of their own PR actions.
A: I agree with Vitaly Leontyevich that there are many myths and legends around our bookmaker firms and domestic football on the whole, which hinders its development. This is why it is necessary that we meet and discuss those issues and our possible cooperation.
Q: What was the attitude by FIFA towards our “Clean Feet” action and the “Stainless Ball” Award?
A: I told to Mr. Scherer and to other FIFA representatives about our joint action and the award institutionalized. They liked the idea very much. Now they will think how to transfer the idea onto the international level and institute the award for the most honest club in the world.