Goa league fiasco: AIFF & GFA not on same page over investigation (Lead)

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Goa Football Association (GFA) are not on the same page regarding six matches in the Goa Professional League identified for ‘suspicious betting patterns indicative of match manipulation’, which as per a former FIFA official should be addressed to on high priority.

London-based Sportradar — a company that monitors betting odds, movements and patterns worldwide and has FIFA as one of its clients — has cast their suspicion on six matches played between October 16, 2019 and November 19, 2019 in the Goa Pro League last season.

Sportradar identified these suspicious activities through the Fraud Detection System and sent it to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which in turn informed the All India Football Federation (AIFF) integrity officer Siraj in March.

GFA secretary Jovito Lopes said his organisation had conducted an investigation and also caught hold of one person — Gabriel Fernandes — who was giving ball-by-ball commentary of Goa League matches but said match-fixing could not be proved due to a lack of evidence.

GFA had sent a letter to Siraj on March 9 stating that the suspected person was caught red-handed while he was giving the commentary during an I-League match at Margao on March 8 this year between Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala FC.

The suspected person was having an I-League media accreditation card which said he was a reporter of Genius Group, which is allegedly linked to Bet 365.

“There is no conclusive evidence. These are separate issues,” Siraj told IANS on Tuesday when asked about GFA’s report on March 9 regarding the Goa Pro League matches’ investigation.

“GFA sent a two-line letter regarding the Goa Pro League matter on March 6. They said ‘we are looking into this matter’. It was like an acknowledgement.

“See if this guy is a player, he can attend matches. The report is not conclusive enough. You need evidence to prove anything. So see we are still awaiting the investigation report on the matter and then we will take it forward. This is not to be confused with the March 9 letter from GFA,” said Siraj, a former CBI officer.

When contacted, GFA secretary Lopes said not only did they send a letter on March 9, there was another note sent on Tuesday morning furnishing more details.

“We have explained everything in the letter. The same person who was present in the I-League match on March 8 was also doing the same ball-by-ball commentary of Goa League matches. So there is a connection there,” Lopes told IANS.

“We started investigation the moment we got the letter on March 5. We cannot say that he is involved but then the same person is doing the same thing in I-League and Goa Pro League matches.

“We are still to hear anything from AIFF after the March 9 letter. We sent him a note on Tuesday morning also apprising of further developments.”

Shaji Prabhakaran, President at Football Delhi, was actively involved during the time AIFF appointed an integrity officer in 2014. Shaji is a former FIFA South Central Asia Development Officer and feels action must be taken to stop such activities.

“In India you don’t get to know many things. But globally you get to know that Indian leagues are also in demand for betting markets,” he told IANS.

“Indian leagues are also in demand and demand is growing. So when demand is growing, there will be people who will try to manipulate by getting into your system.

“That was the whole reason for (having) an (AIFF) integrity officer. I played a key role in initiating everything when I was with FIFA. Even we have done FIFA interpol CBI seminars in India.

“I took that initiative and that’s how it was done. It was a very good step. Now states will have to be also proactive and clubs also. AIFF alone cannot manage this. Everything needs to be on their toes. This GFA thing is not surprising for me because the suspicion was there. Right now these are all suspicions and it is not proven. Now is the right time for Indian football to be more proactive and put a system in place.

“These things can impact football commercially at a time when sport is in critical juncture.

“We have to protect the game in every way. That’s why as a local association we have partnered with Sportradar,” Shaji said.

“We also did a workshop last month. You have to always presume that something will happen. This is a very serious issue which has come to the notice of AIFF involving Goan football and this should be dealt with utmost intensity. If local leagues are suspicious, they can penetrate to any competition,” he added.