UEFA has emphasised its fierce commitment to combating match-fixing in football – a phenomenon that the European body says strikes at the game's very soul and spirit.
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UEFA has reiterated its determination to crack down on match-fixing in football – with UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino emphasising that "one match fixed is one match too many".
At its meeting in Bilbao in Spain on Thursday, the UEFA Executive Committee gave its backing to an 11-point resolution for the integrity of football. The draft document is to be submitted to UEFA's 54 member associations within a consultation process, with a vote on the resolution set to take place at the XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 27 March next year.
UEFA has made the fight against match-fixing one of its major activities. The governing body is committed to maintaining football's integrity and true spirit through a continued programme of education for players, match officials and coaches, a sophisticated monitoring system, cooperation with the betting industry and strengthened links with law-enforcement agencies and state authorities. UEFA is determined to rid the game of what it has described as a "cancer" which attacks football's very heart.
"For UEFA, the fight against match-fixing is a top priority," Mr Infantino said after the Executive Committee meeting. "We have a policy of zero tolerance against match-fixing, but it is also important that in all European [national] associations, there is an approach against match-fixing that is as uniform as possible."
"The Executive Committee is asking the associations to have concrete and effective policies against match-fixing – these should be consistent. It cannot be that you have one sanction in one country and another sanction in another country for the same offence.
"The fixing of matches strikes at the soul of football," Mr Infantino continued, "and we also want to strengthen the effective partnership between sports bodies and state authorities.
We are monitoring 32,000 matches per year – all UEFA matches and all first and second division matches in every country. We know that out of these 32,000 matches, only around 0.7% present some suspicion. But even one match fixed is one match too many."
Integrity officers are deployed by UEFA throughout its member associations. They are working against match-fixing at a domestic level, helping to introduce education programmes for players, officials and administrators, and liaising with UEFA on any integrity-related issue which arises concerning their matches, or their teams participating in UEFA competitions.
The UEFA General Secretary went on to highlight the penalties handed down by UEFA for offences related to the fixing of matches. "UEFA has excluded three teams from European competitions this year, because of matches which were fixed at national level. We have also suspended a referee for life because he was involved in attempted match-fixing."
"We have suspended some referees for life, not because they have fixed matches, but because they were approached by criminals wanting to fix matches, and they did not communicate this to UEFA. So there are long suspensions, as well as life bans for individuals who are involved."
The UEFA Executive Committee has recently expressed its support for the introduction of sporting fraud as a criminal offence in national legislations throughout Europe, as cooperation from legal authorities is required if match-fixing is to be eliminated. "[Here] in Spain, match-fixing is now a criminal offence," Mr Infantino explained, "which allows prosecutors to act in the fight against the fixing of games. In other countries, this is unfortunately not yet the case."