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UEFA's fight against corruption in football has continued with the eight teams involved in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship receiving a talk about the dangers of match-fixing.
The initiative, which was introduced earlier this year at the European U17 Championship, aims to warn young players about the threat match-fixing can pose to careers. Graham Peaker, intelligence coordinator in the UEFA disciplinary services unit, addressed the U19 finalists in Caen, France, explaining how the betting system works – and emphasising that match-fixing can always be traced back to organised crime. "Widespread corruption is a real threat to football," he said. "UEFA is fighting crime at all levels."
Prevention rather than cure was the underlying theme, Peaker adding: "We're talking to you because you're at the start of a great career. We're contacting you now before there's the chance for you to get in touch with corruption." The presentation illustrated how betting works in the various stages from initial contact with clubs, players and referees, showing the false promises – including offers of professional and financial rewards – that can be made in an attempt to secure cooperation.
Peaker was keen to point out that those offers mask a threat that is very real, both in terms of the safety of an individual player and his family and also the danger to careers. "UEFA and your national association will always punish you," he said. "Players found guilty of match-fixing will always be banned. UEFA and several international police departments are constantly hunting down corruption. You will be brought to justice, while criminals will keep looking for you long after you've left their organisation."
There are various ways for those who are approached to become engaged in match-fixing to deal with the situation, including contacting their national association and UEFA or using an anonymous hotline. Peaker told the players what they can do to minimise the risk of getting entangled in corruption, again reminding his audience of UEFA's stance. "We always investigate corruption and the punishments are always severe," he said. "We have sophisticated IT systems to detect suspicious patterns in betting markets and we have a worldwide network of contacts and sources.
"UEFA has banned players, referees and club officials for life," he added. "All rumours and indications are being investigated, and we are working with police departments all over Europe. We've also visited Asian bookmakers to track down money bet on games. We're here to bring the message to youth football that match-fixing is a crime."
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