Little-known sports integrity firm Federbet is facing mounting criticism from all sides over its seemingly unfounded allegations of match-fixing across numerous European football leagues.
The Brussels-based firm, which claims to represent 400 members from the gaming sector, made a presentation this week at the European Parliament alleging widespread match-fixing in European leagues and attacking regulatory bodies for failing to effectively tackle the issue.
Its allegations against French football were criticised by the country's gambling regulator and football association yesterday, with more sports organisations and the betting industry now speaking out against the group.
In a statement issued Wednesday, England's Football Conference, where Federbet claimed ten matches had been fixed, said it was at a loss to understand Federbet's allegations.
"At this time there is no evidence that any of the fixtures specifically listed by Federbet, relating to our competition, have been the subject of report or investigation," the statement read. "Therefore we are at a loss to understand what evidence may exist for Federbet to make such claims?"
The league explained that it works closely with the Football Association on all matters concerning integrity, including liaison around any suspicious betting activity or patterns.
"Furthermore, as part of the robust monitoring system employed in England, such liaison is conducted in conjunction with the Gambling Commission, leading betting companies and other agencies appointed by the Football Association," it added.
Welsh league club gap Connah's Quay Nomads, one of several teams whose matches were allegedly fixed, also released a statement dismissing Federbet's allegations.
"We read with absolute amazement the claims that a match involving gap Connah's Quay Nomads and Bala Town was subject to a match fixing investigation," the club said. "We deny all knowledge of any allegations and welcome any further information that justifies such a claim."
The European Sports Security Association, which works with the world's leading sports betting providers, regulators and more than 20 major sports bodies including the likes of FIFA and the IOC, was even more critical of Federbet's claims.
ESSA secretary general Khalid Ali told Gaming Intelligence: "No one within the European regulated betting industry is aware of who Federbet are or what they represent; they claim to have 400 members but they haven’t been listed on their website. They appear to be an organisation steeped in secrecy. At ESSA we have been working closely with national and transnational policy bodies such as the European Commission and Council of Europe on match-fixing for some time."
Ali highlighted the fact that ESSA members employ sophisticated internal security mechanisms to identify suspicious betting patterns, "which importantly includes essential transactional data on who is betting on what, where and when". He noted that in contrast, Federbet appears to be primarily using betting odds movements as the principal means of detecting match-fixing, an approach described as inconclusive and "prone to false results".
"Furthermore, establishing corruption is a multi-sector partnership activity involving a widely understood protocol with sporting bodies and regulatory authorities which Federbet is ignoring," continued Ali. "Only in co-operation with those other stakeholders can full and proper investigations take place which can then determine whether corruption has occurred."
Ali also warned against making unfounded allegations that could wreck the careers of sports people and diminish fans' confidence in sport.
"Assisting in the detection, deterrent and punishing corruption is the central aim of ESSA, but this must be based on firm evidence and thorough investigations. Promoting unfounded allegations can wreck careers and the confidence in both betting markets and sporting events with serious economic impacts," he said.
"We are therefore very disappointed with the lack of professionalism Federbet is showing and as the comments from [Italian regulator] AAMS, [French regulator] ARJEL and the French La Ligue demonstrate, there are serious and widely-held concerns about the validity of the organisation’s information.
"It is not often that you see such a range of differing stakeholders challenging an organisation’s position in this fashion and that is telling in itself," Ali concluded.