Kenya needs to criminalise match fixing now more than ever

That match fixing is widespread in Kenyan football is no longer a secret.

That match fixing is widespread in Kenyan football is no longer a secret.

Photo credit: Pool |

What you need to know:

  • Ken Ochieng, the Zoo FC chairman, posted various audios on his Facebook page, revealing how some of his players, staff and former players colluded with match manipulators to fix games. And social media blew off.

Over the past few weeks, the Kenyan football scene has been awash with discussions about match fixing especially in the Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKFPL) and the National Super League (NSL).

Ken Ochieng', the Zoo FC chairman, posted various audios on his Facebook page, revealing how some of his players, staff and former players colluded with match manipulators to fix games. And social media blew off.

The revelations did not surprise me but I was happy with the reactions that they drew.

All along I have been saying that match fixing is the biggest threat to football in Kenya. The vice has gotten worse than it was a few years ago when I started highlighting it.

That match fixing is widespread in Kenyan football is no longer a secret. This is basically organised crime involving local criminals and their counterparts in Asia and other parts of the world.

Why then doesn’t it attract attention from the Government-appointed FKF Transition Committee and security agencies despite the cries from football stakeholders?

Match fixing and money laundering are interconnected and the effects of the latter are well documented.

It is therefore imperative that the government through the Ministry of Sports collaborates with sports entities and security agencies to outlaw it.

I am not a lawyer and the closest I have interacted with law is in Media Law classes in campus.

However, I think since we do not have specific or ad hoc match-fixing offences in Kenya, we can use general fraud provisions to deal with match-fixing and our criminal laws can serve as a solid legal basis for prosecution for those found culpable of match fixing offenses.

In 2019, Sri Lanka became the first nation in South Asia to criminalise the vice. Extensive investigations had found several Sri Lankan cricketers including former captain Sanath Jayasuriya guilty of manipulating games.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) anti-corruption board helped the Sri Lanka government to draft the legislation. The punishment for match fixers and their accomplices is 10 years in prison plus hefty fines.

Bulgaria, Spain, Cyprus, Poland, Greece, Italy, Portugal and several other countries have special criminal laws targeting match fixers.

There has been huge progress in India over the same for a while and the bill could be passed to law soon ahead of the ODI World Cup in 2023.

Most recently, Czech Republic police recommended that 21 people be indicted for involvement in a match fixing scandal that included Czech Football Association deputy president.

The 21 individuals and one legal entity were involved in influencing the results of football matches in the Czech Football League and Fortuna National League (second-tier).

The prosecutor has also suggested the withdrawal of National funds from the Pilsen Regional Football Association (lower-tier). The four main suspects in this case face imprisonment for up to 12 years while the rest face lower sentences.

In the UK, no individuals or organisations found to have been involved in any form of crime can purchase clubs. This is primarily to avoid match manipulation and to some extent money laundering.

The 12th meeting of Interpol’s Match-Fixing Task Force (IMFTF) held in Abu Dhabi in May concluded with a call to harmonise global efforts to curb competition manipulation.

It was the first major event held under the banner of Interpol’s newly-created Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC), which provides a coordinated global response against the exponential growth in transnational financial crime and corruption.

The above scenarios clearly show that match fixing is a global problem and various countries have already taken note of the gravity of the issue and acted.

Kenya has become the hub for match fixers and the government and security agencies now need to collaborate to help curtail the widespread vice.

The gaps identified can be addressed either by adjusting existing criminal law provisions or by developing new ones.

For now, we depend on Fifa to deal with match manipulators but all it does is ban those found culpable. That is not enough.

The culprits, mainly ex-footballers, continue recruiting more active players into the web and act as the link between the dons, who are mainly domiciled in Asia, players and club owners.

The expose by Ken Ochieng only revealed a fraction of the people alleged to be involved in match fixing in Kenya. There are a dozen others who continue to spoil the integrity of the sport.

And it is now getting into other sports other than football. The manipulators are getting sophisticated and changing tact every single day.

The Government needs to act soon to protect the integrity of sports in this country.

We should have legal provisions for protection of whistleblowers; anti-money laundering measures, including freezing, seizure and confiscation of proceeds from match-fixing and special investigative techniques and all these is within the discretion of national legislators to draft, adopt and implement.

Jeff Kinyanjui is a multimedia journalist currently working as the Lead Editor at Mozzart Sport. Twitter: @_JeffKinyanjui

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