Geographical factors and seasonal timing make the ISPS Handa Premiership a prime target for bookmakers - especially in football-mad Asia.

But the sport's governing body is confident it's geared to combat any potential threat.

According to NZF competitions and events director Daniel Farrow, education workshops around integrity and match-fixing were delivered - in conjunction with the New Zealand Professional Footballers' Association (NZPFA) - to every team in the National League, as well as the Women's National League, since 2016.

There are also programmes for the various regional premier leagues.

Advertisement

"It's a top priority," said Farrow. "Education is the most important element and the PFA delivers integrity models to all of our players. When the figures are presented to the players there is often a reaction of surprise but it helps players understand that corruption could make it down this way."

NZF have also adapted the Red Button app, technology produced by a Finnish company that allows players to anonymously report anything of concern.

In 2017, there was $828,000 wagered on the National League through the New Zealand TAB.

But in the same period, an estimated $33 million was bet on the competition in offshore markets.

It's because the National League, which runs from October to March, for a few hours on a Saturday and Sunday morning each week in many parts of Asia, has a monopoly on the football market. It's at the time of year when Major League Soccer has finished, many South American leagues have concluded and the Chinese Super League has yet to start.

The J League winds up at the end of November. Matches in local leagues are played four or five hours later, the A-League kicks off in the afternoon (Asian time) and the European competitions are screened later that night.

"The time zone is quite appealing and doesn't compete with most other leagues at that time," explained Farrow. "So often we are the only competition available."

The size of the world market in sports betting, through regulated bookmakers, was around $220 billion in 2017.

But those figures pale in comparison with the unregulated market, where somewhere between US$500b and US$2 trillion is wagered on sport with illegal bookmakers.

"We have to be vigilant," says Andrew Scott-Howman, general counsel for the NZPFA.

"The time zones mean we have a monopoly on the football market for a small period each week.

"Also, our players are essentially amateur, which means that they are more inclined to think about doing something for money than well paid professionals might otherwise be," he said yesterday.

"And then there is our general naivety as a country; New Zealanders are generally so under-educated about the risk, that unless you know what to look for, you are not going to see it."

It seems unlikely that the kind of broadcasting deal that former NZF chief executive Andy Martin allegedly considered would be contemplated by the organisation in the future.

"If we were going to look at broadcasting the national league internationally for betting, we would probably only consider that if there were significant benefits to do so and only after we had done a full risk assessment around our integrity programme," said Farrow.