UEFA has continued its battle against corruption in football with a series of presentations on the dangers of match-fixing at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Romania.
The educational sessions are conducted by Graham Peaker of the UEFA legal affairs division and are entitled Match-Fixing: What You As A Young Player Need To Know. It begins with a definition of match-fixing, described by Peaker as "cheating to lose". "What we obviously don't want is the result to be determined before the match takes place," he added.
There followed a more detailed look into match-fixing, illustrating its close links to organised crime. "These are dangerous people and this is money laundering," said Peaker. He went on to explain how matches are fixed − from the targeting of clubs with major financial problems to payments to several key players or match officials and the placing of massive bets, usually in the Asian markets.
"UEFA's message to you, the players of the future, is to say no to match-fixing," Peaker said. "Report it to a trusted member of your club, national association or UEFA and don't get involved in organised crime."
Peaker took his audience through the betting types, particularly the differences between the European and Asian markets, and provided an example of the Asian handicap system. He emphasised that UEFA monitors the 32,000 matches played in Europe each season, looking for irregular betting patterns. "We want to protect you at the start of a promising career, but we also want to protect football," he added. "Corruption is a major threat to the game."
Criminals are targeting leagues and clubs in all countries. Peaker gave an example of how much money is staked on matches, with one UEFA Champions League quarter-final game attracting total bets of €38m with one Asian bookmaker; the estimated worldwide total staked on the game − which is not at all suspected of being manipulated − was €900m.
With such sums involved, Peaker pointed out the dangers posed by the people who stand to make enormous profits on fixed games. "They have no respect for human life, and you will be physically threatened," he said. He then told his audience that it was important that either UEFA or their club or national association were informed of any approach by potential match-fixers.
That represents just a part of UEFA's fight against match-fixing, which includes widespread investigations and heavy punishments for those found guilty. UEFA also works with state authorities, who have the power to impose prison sentences on culprits, and has sophisticated IT systems to detect suspicious betting patterns. In addition to this, Integrity Officers are being appointed in each of the 53 national associations to expand the fight against corruption in football.
"UEFA has banned players and match officials from European competition for life and excluded clubs from UEFA competition for several years," Peaker said. "The punishments are severe, so please don't get involved."
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