No one’s singing The Police’s award-winning number but players and team officials in the Indian Super League (ISL) are being told that every breath they take, every move they make, someone would be watching them.
The twin scourges of match-fixing and betting frauds - it’s cricket India mainly associates these with but football’s had its share of troubles - mean making friends during a competition, having a night on the town with them is history.
The message to the players is: if you still manage to stay active on the social circuit, keep the team manager in the loop. And that includes bringing a “friend”, who is not part of the competition, to the player’s hotel room.
So, before each team’s first match they are being briefed about what not to do. A spokesperson for the league said when a player joins later, he is briefed separately in the presence of his team’s manager. Each team hotel has an integrity officer, the teams are told.
There’s no bar on social media activity but players have been told to be wary of anyone suddenly showing a lot of interest. They are also shown a world map with countries and cities known for illegal betting activity highlighted.
To make ISL teams aware of what constitutes suspicious activity, a video of an Argentina-Nigeria friendly is shown where the referee awards a penalty to Nigeria for handball when the ball clearly touches the player’s thigh. That was done because it had been decided that were would be five goals in the match, the teams are told. Argentina won that game 4-1.
For the second successive year, the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) has been tasked with safeguarding the ISL and reviewing its anti-corruption regulations and practices, according to the company’s website. ICSS has worked with Fifa, Uefa and the International Olympic Committee. It receives 70% of its funds from the Qatar government and has an annual budget of $20m.
There have been no reports of the ISL being hit by a betting scandal or match-fixing last term but as a team official said “being careful isn’t a bad habit.”