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Fighting the 'scourge' of match-fixing

At the inaugural UEFA match-fixing working group meeting, Michel Platini spoke of the "sad and serious reality" of match-fixing, and emphasised the commitment to ridding the game of it.

Fighting the 'scourge' of match-fixing
Fighting the 'scourge' of match-fixing ©UEFA.com

UEFA President Michel Platini has stressed the determination of European football to eliminate what he called the "scourge" of match-fixing, as the relationship on the issue between UEFA and key stakeholders took a crucial step forward.

"[Match-fixing] is not a fantasy; it is a reality, a sad and serious reality," said Mr Platini at the inaugural meeting of the UEFA working group on match-fixing in Nyon. The UEFA President urged full cooperation between the football authorities, state authorities and law enforcement agencies in the fight against match-fixing, emphasising that sports bodies cannot conduct the fight alone.

"Since my election in 2007, I have not stopped calling for help in the fight against this danger," said the UEFA President. "For a long time, I had the impression that I was crying in the wilderness. But today, I finally have the impression that I am being heard and perhaps even listened to.

"UEFA and its member associations are aware of the fact that the football authorities do not have the means to deal with the problem of match-fixing themselves," he added. "We are doing our utmost, believe me, but our powers and perogatives are limited, because we are not judges or prosecutors, nor are we police officers.

"It is only by working hand in hand with government authorities and law enforcement bodies that we can eradicate this scourge once and for all."

UEFA has made the fight against match-fixing one of its key priorities. "UEFA remains vigilant and aware of the fact that match-fixing is the greatest danger that threatens our sport," the UEFA President continued. "Without its unpredictable character sport loses its charm, spirit and profound sense. The heart of football, the game and its soul are affected."

Mr Platini questioned the point of going to a match if the result was known in advance. "At UEFA, we will therefore never accept that football is tarnished by match-fixing. We will protect our competitions, sport, players and officials."

The UEFA President, together with UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and UEFA disciplinary and integrity officials, were joined at the House of European Football by state and national football association prosecutors, police and crime prevention officials, and betting and gambling experts from numerous European countries in what was the first official exchange between all parties involved in combatting match-fixing.

"Today the meeting was very positive, with criminal prosecutors and sports lawyers coming together to discuss a framework for the future, to fight this danger," said German state prosecutor Andreas Bachmann, who headed the investigations in Bochum that led to eventual convictions for crimes related to match-fixing. "If you look at the development from 2010 within UEFA, then it is clear that great work has already been done, it is all very well organised. We are on a good way for the future.

"The challenges are numerous; match-fixing is a complex phenomenon, because it doesn’t have a strict format," added Italian state prosecutor Roberto Di Martino, who led the Ultima Scommessa (Last Bet) match-fixing investigation, which resulted in successful convictions for match-fixing activity in Italy. "There are many situations that need to be looked at, and it is with initiatives of this type that we are seeking to find some common ground, especially with regards to this collaboration between judicial authorities, who investigate the crimes, and UEFA."

The meeting heard about UEFA's sophisticated betting fraud detection system, in which more than 30,000 matches in UEFA and domestic competitions are monitored each year for illegal betting activities, and its establishment of a network of integrity officers in each association, in particular to act as liaison officer for cooperation between the football authorities and state law enforcement agencies. In turn, UEFA was informed by its guests about how the countries present are approaching match-fixing, especially from a legal point of view.