London: Footballers from poor countries are being "trafficked" around the world in order to facilitate match-fixing, FIFA's head of security was reported as saying on Thursday.
Chris Eaton, who is responsible for overseeing world football's attempts to tackle corruption, told The Independent he suspected criminals enticed players with contracts before ordering them to rig results.
"It is a form of trafficking, in my view - trafficking for criminal purposes," Eaton was quoted as saying. "There are examples of players who have been abandoned because they did not perform.
"It is only anecdotal evidence at this stage but it is clear. They (match-fixers) often target people from humble origins.
"They will go to junior competitions and recruit families of players basically through the attraction of cash. 'I can get you a contract, or a game in Europe or in South America.'
"They will invest in the development of players and officials and then they expect payment - they want their cut."
Eaton was speaking following the conclusion of a trial in Finland this week which saw a Singaporean national sentenced to prison for match-fixing in the country's premier football league.
Wilson Raj Perumal was sentenced by a court in Rovaniemi, the regional capital of Lapland, to two years in prison and damages of 150,000 euros (213,000 dollars) for masterminding match-fixing with the help of nine former football players for Rovaniemi football club RoPS.
The players - seven Zambians and two Georgians - were convicted of suspended sentences ranging from six months to one year and eight months, and damages totalling more than 200,000 euros.
Eaton, a former Interpol officer, said FIFA was studying a range of measures to try and tackle match-fixing.
These included briefing players at under-17 and under-20, considered to be among the most vulnerable, prior to FIFA competitions.
"These people are criminals, they are organised," said Eaton.
"They are well funded and have a long-term plan. They are a real and present danger to the sanctity and ethics of sport. I would not understate its seriousness."