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By ESPN Staff

FIFA launch World Cup gambling offensive

ZURICH, April 25 (Reuters) - Sepp Blatter on Monday launched an offensive against possible match-fixing at the World Cup finals.

He revealed that FIFA are initiating a major anti-gambling strategy and will be asking referees to pledge they will not place any bets at the World Cup finals.

Blatter, president of world soccer's governing body, told reporters he would personally address all the 23 referees selected for the tournament that begins on June 9.

'They will all sign papers to say that they, and their families, will never be involved in any betting or other similar problems,' he said.

'I will speak to them before the tournament begins to make sure that they know everything about this and that they will adopt eight of the points raised by the recent International Football Association Board meeting.

'There are going to be 30 billion people who will watch these 64 matches and we have to be sure that the referees do their jobs properly.'

He added that he was confident that there would be no repeat of some of the problems seen at the last World Cup finals in Japan and Korea in 2002.

'If any one of them behaves badly at all, he will be dealt with immediately and sent away to another level.'

Blatter said that FIFA had set up Swiss-based company Early Warning GmbH to act as a watchdog on gambling in football and to study all the patterns and behaviour.

FIFA general secretary Urs Linsi said that the new company would observe the whole activity of betting and gambling on football with particular attention to the World Cup finals.

'We will study the market and look for signs of anything that is not appropriate and if we find something then we will act accordingly,' he said.

'It is a new thing for us, a new system and we need to do this.'

Blatter conceded that gambling was part of society, but said it had no place in football.

'The trouble is that football is a victim of its own popularity,' he said.