UEFA's ongoing work to prevent match-fixing has continued with presentations to the eight teams at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Hungary.
The sessions, a key and long-standing element of UEFA's work at its youth tournaments, were conducted by UEFA Appeals Body member Michel Wuilleret under the banner headline of 'What you need to know about match-fixing, because we want to protect you.' Wuilleret wasted little time getting to the heart of the matter, telling his audience: "Match-fixing is a crime."
The presentation began with a video asking: 'Why watch a match if everything is decided in advance?' "Match-fixing concerns every country – it's everywhere," added Wuilleret, who provided the most recent examples from UEFA competition. "It's not just the UEFA Champions League, or the UEFA Europa League, or men's matches, or women's, or youth. It affects all competitions."
There followed a detailed explanation of how match-fixing is detected via the monitoring of betting patterns, and a dissection of the gambling industry. With 70% of betting coming from the Asian markets, and more than €750bn wagered on sports each year – €400bn of which goes on football, including, in 2013, €1bn on the UEFA Champions League final – the size of the industry is clear.
"This is an issue for every federation, from the very biggest to the very smallest," Wuilleret added. "Betting on football interests people who are honest, and some who are not. Match-fixing destroys the integrity and credibility of sport – and its athletes, referees, coaches, clubs and federations."
There is a distinction between sport-related match-fixing – two clubs conspiring to arrange the result of a match for their own ends – and betting-related match-fixing, which involves teams losing by a certain scoreline, by multiple goals, losing but scoring a goal and so on.
Wuilleret explained how people can become involved: through the building of relationships, the search for vulnerabilities, favours owed, minor performance errors, threats and bribes leading on to the coercion to make major performance errors. "By then, you're just another match-fixer to them," he said.
With illustrative examples from UEFA's betting fraud detection system, the presentation moved on to arguably the most relevant area for players and coaches – the sanctions. "You can be sanctioned if you're involved directly, or indirectly, in matches that have been fixed," Wuilleret explained. "You can also be sanctioned if you're approached to take part in match-fixing and don't report it."
The consequences are severe and take several forms. On a legal front, players face a life ban, prison and potential action from clubs and federations to recoup wages and transfer fees. From a personal and private point of view, they throw away a promising career, become a national disgrace and cause immeasurable stress and pain for their families. Financially, they lose a very good salary, face hefty legal costs and could be sued for damages.
"UEFA has a simple message for players, referees and coaches," Wuilleret concluded. "If someone asks you to manipulate a match, you need to recognise, reject and report. Don't get involved in organised crime; inform UEFA and your federation if you're approached. This isn't to make you afraid. It's to protect you, and to protect football."
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