UEFA has welcomed the Council of Europe convention on the manipulation of sports competitions, stressing the football family's determination to eradicate match-fixing.
Article top media content
UEFA has hailed the Council of Europe convention on the manipulation of sports competitions as an important milestone in the intensifying campaign against match-fixing, and has emphasised the total commitment of the European football family to banishing this "global and dangerous phenomenon".
Addressing the official dinner in Macolin, Switzerland, to mark the beginning of the signing of the new convention on the manipulation of sports competitions, UEFA Executive Committee member Michael van Praag – speaking to an audience which included European sports ministers – urged public authorities to support sports bodies in confronting the issue head-on.
"The subject we are discussing is both complex and difficult," Van Praag said. "Match-fixing represents one of the most challenging issues that sport has to face these days. As a challenge that sports bodies cannot tackle alone, we must have effective cooperation and support from public authorities. And this is why I am pleased to see so many ministers and senior public officials gathered together today in this audience.
"Your work and dedication has already laid the foundations for an international convention on match-fixing," Van Praag added. "The direction is now set, but there is still work to be done because match-fixing is a global and dangerous phenomenon."
Van Praag reflected that hardly a week passed without a report being published somewhere about match-fixing – "sometimes linked to betting, sometimes not. But it seems to be increasingly the case that criminal syndicates are involved. This threatens the integrity of competitions and destroys the very ethos of sport.
"Faced with this problem, UEFA has stepped up its efforts and has adopted a strong zero-tolerance policy. But, as I mentioned, match-fixing is linked to wider forms of criminality – and is not an issue that can be addressed by sports bodies on their own. It is clear that we must act together with public authorities in order to defeat the problem of match-fixing.
"The Council of Europe convention is a significant step forward. It will help to promote coordination between the police and judicial authorities in different countries. It will also facilitate a more structured cooperation and information exchange between state bodies and sports bodies. This will help sports bodies to prosecute disciplinary cases under their own legal framework. But it will also provide state authorities with access to the sport industry's expertise, which will assist in the investigation and prosecution of organised crime.
"I therefore warmly commend the efforts of the Council of Europe, and also the leadership of EPAS [Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport], which has enabled this convention to become a reality. We sincerely hope that all parties will make every effort to ratify and implement it. UEFA stands ready to play its part."
Van Praag assured those present that the efforts of UEFA and the football family to combat match-fixing would be reinforced. "We must also build on the convention and take further concrete measures to eliminate match-fixing once and for all," he said. "So what we would propose here is a strategy based on making sports fraud a specific criminal offence.
"At the same time, we should also recognise sports bodies' property rights in the context of betting. That is to say, betting companies should pay a fee to the organiser of sporting competitions in cases where they offer bets on these competitions. Some nations have already implemented good practices that we could all make use of.
"Bulgaria, France, Poland and Spain – to name just a few – have already taken steps to criminalise match-fixing. However, because this is not a crime that easily fits into existing criminal codes, it is important that it becomes a specific offence in its own right. We cannot have a situation where it is not possible to prosecute simply because these dishonest practices do not neatly fall under an existing heading in criminal law. Match-fixing must be made a criminal offence and there must be no sanctuaries for match-fixers.
"Another valuable means," Van Praag explained, "is the recognition of sports bodies' property rights in the context of betting. This can be a key element in the fight to prevent the manipulation of sports results.
"France has already taken the initiative here, and we would suggest that others now follow a similar path. Such a policy allows competition organisers and betting operators to agree on which aspects of the game can be the subject of betting, as well as on the monitoring and control mechanisms that are required in this area. It can also be a valuable funding mechanism to help assist in the fight against match-fixing.
"As you can see, great challenges still lie ahead. But it is with confidence that I can speak on behalf of the UEFA Executive Committee to assure you that the European football family will remain steadfast in its efforts to kick match-fixing out of sport forever."
Van Praag concluded that the convention was an important step towards defending the integrity of sport. "And it is strong evidence of our determination to work together for the overall well-being of European sport," he said.
"On this issue, as in many others, we are stronger together than we are alone. We must stand up for our values and take our responsibilities to face the challenges facing sport in Europe. That is what UEFA will do. And we stand ready to work with all others prepared to do the same."