A regional UEFA Integrity Officers seminar in Skopje will look at the work being undertaken within various countries to combat the scourge of match-fixing in football.
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UEFA's campaign to combat match-fixing includes the deployment of UEFA Integrity Officers in its 53 member associations. A group of these officials gather this week for a UEFA seminar in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In 2011, UEFA's Executive Committee approved a report by its betting/match-fixing working group, which proposed the measures that European football should take to address the threat of match-fixing – including the setting up of a network of Integrity Officers at European level.
They act as liaison officers for cooperation between the football authorities and state law enforcement agencies in relation to suspected match-fixing. Integrity Officers also exchange information and experience with the UEFA administration regarding the prosecution of corrupt or criminal practices affecting football. They monitor disciplinary proceedings and coordinate relevant action, as well as organising educational programmes for players, referees and coaches as part of an effective preventative strategy.
UEFA is making funds available every year to each national member association to help finance the position of Integrity Officer. UEFA's own Integrity Officer works alongside the national counterpart, supporting the operation of the network and overseeing intelligence gathering and information exchange.
European football's governing body has a zero-tolerance policy towards match-fixing, and will punish anyone who is caught. It also stresses the importance of cooperation between sports bodies and state organisations in the fight to eliminate match-fixing and corruption from the game.
"If the results of matches are known before the matches take place, there would be no point in playing the game," said UEFA President Michel Platini in welcoming a recent European parliament resolution against match-fixing. "Children would have to stop playing football, people would have to stop going to the stadiums. We are determined to combat those who fix matches and cheat, and will hand down severe punishments to anyone found guilty of manipulating the result of a match."
The Skopje seminar is being attended by the national associations of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. National Integrity Officers will be coming together with UEFA to review the progress of the officers' work, discuss the strategies being adopted in the countries present, examine the tools that exist for the Integrity Officers to do their vital job, and exchange ideas and proposals for the future.
In addition, the gathering will review the education and prevention measures that are being undertaken in the countries present. National associations will give a series of presentations on the specific work being undertaken against match-fixing, and discussion groups will enable participants to exchange best practice with UEFA and their counterparts in other associations.