The field for the latest edition of soccer’s quadrennial event is now 24 teams, news media coverage and viewership have mushroomed and sponsors are beating a path to be associated with the event.
It has also piqued the interest of the world’s bettors.
Games at the tournament are drawing millions of dollars worth of bets, another sign of the World Cup’s growing popularity but also one of future risks to the women’s game, where match-fixers long active in professional men’s soccer are beginning to cast their gaze toward their female counterparts.
FIFA is taking no chances in France this summer. Soccer’s governing body says its program to counter attempts to manipulate matches in the tournament are its most extensive to date for the event.
“It’s the first time we have been able to gather so many stakeholders around the table,” Vincent Ven, FIFA’s head of integrity, said in a telephone interview. FIFA is working with Interpol, the French police, national financial crime prosecutors and France’s betting regulator. The event even has drawn the F.B.I. to France. Officials from the bureau are scheduled to meet with counterparts from France, Belgium and the Netherlands on Friday to hear about strategies adopted in Europe to tackle match manipulation, a potential threat amid the growth of the legalized the sports betting market in the United States.
But the scale of the World Cup, not to mention the potential for embarrassment, has meant nothing is being taken for granted.
Last month, representatives of the agencies responsible for protecting the game gathered in Paris to prep their responses to four potential match-fixing scenarios, including responses to a sudden change in odds, or what actions to take if there were rumors surrounding a match official.