Lack of resources, skills among hurdles in tackling match-fixing in Indonesia

In 2021, Indonesian authorities uncovered plans to fix football matches involving three local clubs.

The perpetrators had contacted two Gresik Putra FC players and the club treasurer, offering bribes to lose matches against NZR Sumbersari (Nov 11, 2021) and Persema (Nov 15, 2021).

The trio were persuaded to do so in a meeting and through Whatsapp messages. Later, the bookies admitted to authorities that they had even arranged the referees for the competitions.

The motive was to benefit punters placing bets on online football gambling sites.

This was the case study presented by Senior Commissioner Arief Adiharsa, Indonesia’s Police Criminal Research Agency deputy director of corruption crime, at the ‘Safeguarding Sport from Corruption: Focus on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ held in Kuala Lumpur on May 15 and 16.

While sharing the Indonesian experience in tackling corruption in sports, Arief detailed several lessons learnt from such cases.

According to him, among the major challenges faced by the authorities are:

  • Lack of information resources.
  • Advances in telecommunication and encryption technologies.
  • Sophisticated payment system.
  • Investigators with limited competence.
  • Lack of public awareness.
  • Limited allocations/resources for investigations.

Arief also highlighted an important aspect observed beyond Indonesia – footballers and athletes who do not enjoy job security and receive low wages.

Some of the best practices to help tackle the menace include creating public awareness about match-fixing via the media and social media platforms, strong law enforcement, the formation of a task force, a good whistleblower system, and cooperating with key stakeholders – namely the associations, players, fan clubs, international authorities and even betting houses.

Match fixing in Indonesia and the region is not new. Competition manipulation has been documented in Indonesia since the 1960s.

In 1962, the infamous ‘Senayan Scandal’ saw 18 footballers and three referees implicated in match-fixing. In 1978, a goalkeeper received a five-year ban for accepting bribes when Indonesia played in the Pestabola Merdeka held in Kuala Lumpur.

In 2018, Madura FC reported an attempt to fix the club’s match against PSS Sleman.

The two-day workshop was organised by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) via its Programme on Safeguarding Sport from Corruption and Economic Crime, with the cooperation of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and hosted by the Asian Football Confederation based in Bukit Jalil.

The event was supported by the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, and funded by the European Union.

Over 60 representatives from various entities participated in the workshop.

Other speakers included FIFA integrity manager Mohammad Yazid Zakaria; Professor Jack Anderson from Melbourne Law School, Australia; Assistant Commissioner Chris Gilbert from Victoria Police’s Intelligence and Covert Support Command; and Aron Ingalls and Katherine Armstrong from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.