Players at the Women's Under-19 finals in south Wales have learned about UEFA's zero tolerance approach to match-fixing during presentations to the eight competing teams.
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UEFA's fight against corruption in football now spans the women's game with presentations to all eight competing teams, plus the match officials, at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in south-west Wales.
Each of the hour-long sessions was led by UEFA's intelligence coordinator Graham Peaker, who told his audience: "UEFA has a zero tolerance approach to match-fixing. All football matches are to be played in a spirit of respect and fairness, with the outcome determined solely on the merits of the competing teams and the result uncertain until the match is completed."
Peaker was quick to underline the links between match-fixing and organised crime, pointing out that the related currency comes from criminal activity and is a form of money laundering. UEFA monitors every match in its competitions, plus all first and second division and cup games from each of the 54 European national associations. "That's around 32,000 matches a year in total," he said. "Any match that's manipulated is one too many."
The players also heard how UEFA's betting fraud detection system (BFDS) works, along with the markets in Europe and Asia. UEFA is in close contact with betting companies to monitor irregular patterns. Additionally, the governing body works closely with FIFA and the integrity officers at every national association to investigate any possible offences and, if necessary, open disciplinary and even criminal proceedings. "Match-fixing is fraud," said Peaker.
To illustrate how much money is involved, Peaker provided illuminating examples: it is estimated that more than €1bn was gambled on the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League final in Asia alone. Indeed, more than €500bn per annum is legally gambled on sport worldwide. It came as a surprise to the players to learn that even matches at these finals are being offered by Asian bookmakers.
It was also spelled out why games are fixed – financial problems for players, coaches, clubs or referees – and how, following massive bets placed in the Asian markets, key players are told to play a certain way to ensure their side lose. "When a match is fixed, there's always someone involved on the pitch," Peaker said.
UEFA is extremely active in tackling match-fixing, investigating any games or players that give cause for concern. "Any guilty party will be sanctioned – they are out of the game for life," Peaker made clear. "It's tough but it has to be done." While such presentations help raise awareness, UEFA has also set up a hotline and reporting platform for contacting them anonymously and confidentially – and works closely with state authorities to sanction offenders. Players and referees have been banned for life; clubs have been excluded from UEFA competition.
"Why are we giving you this warning?" Peaker asked. "We want to protect you – you are the stars of the future and we want you in the game. Match-fixing is a threat to the integrity and popularity of football and if you are approached, you must inform UEFA or your national association. Match-fixers are dangerous people.
"If someone asks you to manipulate a match, recognise what is happening, reject it immediately and report it. Don't get involved in organised crime. If anyone is found guilty of involvement, they'll receive a red card from football for life."