Interview – Frederique Winia (FIFPro) on the Red Button App
EFDN had the opportunity to interview Frederique Winia (FIFPro), Director Member Services and General Secretary FIFPro Asia/Oceania, as part of our Fair Sport 4 All initiative. The programme aims to create awareness, share best practices and develop new educational resources on a practitioner’s level, that can be used to prevent or tackle match-fixing. This interview aims to have a better understanding of the role of FIFPro and especially their new tool to tackle match-fixing as well as protect the players against all types of pressure issues.
EFDN: Could you introduce yourself and explain your role?
My name is Frederique Winia and I work for FIFPRO, the International Federation of Associations of Football Players, we represent professional players worldwide, around 65000 players in 65 countries approximately where we have player’s union or player’s association.
I work for FIFPro for almost 20 years. Currently, I have two functions within the organisation. First, I am Director of Member Services, and our members are the player’s union and association all over the world. My other function is General Secretary of FIFPRO division Asia/Oceania.
FIFPRO is divided into 4 divisions and each division has a general secretary who is taking care of the unions. When it comes to FIFPRO itself, we already exist for more than 50 years. It was established in Europe with the biggest football countries at that time. like France, Italy, Spain, England, and the Netherlands.
Nowadays, we have 65 player unions all over the world and we are representing professional players. Our objective is to represent collectively those players in terms of their labour rights, human rights, mental well-being, health, and safety. It’s all part of our programmes we are running.
EFDN: The role of FIFPro is mainly on the legal part, pre-retirement or other aspects related to the life-career of a player?
At the start is, of course, to help players during their career and then it is not about their performance, but mainly focused on their labour rights, do they have decent contracts, are they paid on time.
You can imagine nowadays with the international match calendar, it is also something we discuss with FIFA, with clubs and leagues to see, if it is still feasible and we also do our own research to look after the well-being of players.
We also prepare them to think about what will happen after their squad-career, so there are player development programmes that are entirely based on the players themselves for their wellbeing but also give them help with their orientation in their future career. We also provide them courses, or we make deals with universities where they can already start to study during their career. There is, of course, an aspect of mental wellbeing, health, and safety. So, it is not how we talk about how a club should look like but it is more about the circumstances and ideal for players on and off the pitch.
EFDN: We would like to talk about the Red Button App which has been promoted by you since last year. What are the main features of this app?
By the way, the App is already existing for quite some time, it was developed by our Finnish colleagues. Last year, we took over as we thought it was really time to introduce it to all professional players that we are representing. The app itself is, basically, a reporting tool where players can report anonymously or leave their details, it is up to the player to decide. He/she can report if he is being approached for match-fixing or he/she has seen something suspicious or that he/she has seen a teammate was approached, it could be anything related to this.
It is a safe reporting mechanism for the player to report because he is obliged to report any suspicious thing, if he was contacted or if he has seen something, according to the football rules. However, we feel, this is not just a tool, you can work with it.
It is also about awareness raising and education. The tool has reporting aspects, and, in addition, we have also sections like a code of conduct in it about the rules, the do’s and don’ts. There are also some videos materials where a player is telling his story on an approach and what happens to him afterwards. He is telling his story just as a bit of better understanding.
There is another video clip, on, what could happen to a football player when they are approached and what you should do. In our idea it is not just making this app available for players but there should be a session before, where the unions are explaining to the players, preferably in the dressing room, talk about match-fixing, the dangers, raise awareness, and then together they download, and install the app on the phone and activate the app.
About the features, it is completely secured, because you can download it from the internet, but in order to activate it, you need a code. And these codes are randomly given to our players, so it is a unique code, they only need to install once and then the app is activated. So, with the code you activate the app, after that, you can send multiple reports. It is easy for players, and now you can also easily upload for example screenshots if you were approached by WhatsApp, Facebook, you can even upload documents, audio recordings, so if you had a phone call and you recorded you can upload it on the app.
As I said, it is up to the players to decide if they report anonymously or if he/she is given his contact details, it is more up to the player in a way. For the player, he/she is obliged to the rules that he did report. In some cases, afterwards there is the investigation, the player can say, well, I did report through the Red Button app. In that case, with the consent of the player, we can retrieve the information. Because for security reasons, no report anonymously or not, can’t be traced in the player’s phone. Well, you know, we are dealing with organised crime so, in the phone itself, there will be no trace that the player did report any approach, or if he was approached. Because of the security system, we are able to retrieve this information now.
So, it is totally safe for those players, but you keep, even if it is anonymously, you can see and retrace the information that he reported related to this kind of incident.
EFDN: Since you took over this initiative, did you see more results in terms of reporting than before?
Well, we know for some countries, which I cannot mention, some countries where the app was introduced to the players, it is quite high, in terms of reports. That way you can really see that it’s successful.
Due to Covid, it was almost impossible to really see the players and to be in touch with them. We are now working on other ways in order to make sure that the app is installed on their phones.
Some of the countries were able to meet with the players and we can continue the downloads and the activation of the app. We don’t know which player has an app on his phone, but we know the number per country. It’s really going up now because the situation is getting better so the player unions are
able to go out and see the players again. The real effect still needs to take place because we just launched it.
EFDN: Do you have a percentage or a number of players who have downloaded the app?
It’s too early to say to be honest. Because we had last year the introduction and, you know, it is not just that simple. Like we tell you the story and you get your calls, and you go to the players. All these records have been sent to different countries and to the unions. They need to discuss with the stakeholders in the countries, asking “how are we going to tackle this?” It is quite a long process.
Some of them were very quick and could easily start where others are really starting now to introduce to the players. So, it’s too early to talk about numbers and success. But what I see with those countries who were able to start, it’s really going well.
EFDN: Did you receive feedback from players? How reacted the players to this app?
What I heard is they were very happy with it because they didn’t know where to report. FIFA has a reporting tool, UEFA has a reporting tool, the national federations have their own reporting mechanism in place, and for players it’s really like a jungle. And there are different ways of reporting, you have one, you have to go by email, the other by phone number. Well, there are apps. But the players are really not aware.
These mechanisms are put in place and then it is not clear for players, if they are approached, where to report to. If it was a national competition, if it is a qualifier, if it is the national team then different rules apply. With our tool you can report, and you can tick a box to choose which sort of match you were approached, for the national team or if it is national competition. You can also leave detailed information; you text yourself like I was approached by this person, at one time and for what type of match.
That was the positive feedback we got from players because we noticed how we go and what players, if they are aware, should report. And their next question is, to who should I report? With this Red Button app on their phone, it’s just like a few clicks and then they are safe, I could say.
EFDN: Since the pandemic, did you see an impact on match-fixing alerts? I mean did the phenomena of match-fixing increase?
What I understood from, I think it was Europol who did research, there was really an increasement of match-fixing, because they just find matches somewhere that they could fix. So what we’ve seen there is a trend that even the lower, lower and lower leagues are getting more interesting for match-fixers because last year a lot of competitions could not be completed. Then, the attention just spreads to other leagues.
Players are more vulnerable because, well, they didn’t have a job for a long time or were not being paid. So that makes them more vulnerable. Therefore, on the one hand, more urgency exists for us to promote this app and make sure that that players are aware and on the other hand, we all say it’s not only the app that will fix the metrics. We have to make sure that contracts are respected, players are being paid on time so that there are less vulnerable to match-fixing.
For more information about the Red Button App, visit the FIFPro website.