The fight against match-fixing and the importance of clean sport are brought into sharp focus in Athens this week.
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UEFA joined forces with the Hellenic Football Federation (HFF), the Council of Europe, the International Olympic Committee, Interpol and the Greek National Platform for Sport Integrity (EPATHLA) to organise Sport Integrity Week, an international forum that brings together leading actors committed to combating the manipulation of sporting competitions.
For Angelo Rigopoulos, UEFA’s managing director of integrity and regulatory, the event is a unique platform to develop existing partnerships: "We are very proud to be co-organisers of this rare opportunity to bring together such a wide variety of key stakeholders. Between sports bodies, integrity officers, national platforms, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, we identify common challenges, share intelligence, and discuss how to combat evolving threats to sporting integrity.
"UEFA plays a leading role in fighting match-fixing, but that is only possible with the collaboration and support of the organisations present here in Athens as well as our 55 member associations."
Protecting the future of sport
The Sport Integrity Week’s primary objective is to enhance national and transnational cooperation in addressing challenges and potential solutions.
Sophie Kwasny, head of the sport division at the Council of Europe, explained how protecting sport’s integrity is tantamount to preserving its future: "For sport to continue to bring joy, passion and educational values, people need to trust it. Combating match-fixing is central to that trust, and sport can only do that by working with police, regulators, and public authorities at both national and international levels."
From Monday to Wednesday, the organisers focused on capacity-building activities and workshops for delegates from Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Malta, Romania and Türkiye. Participants include football integrity officers, representatives of the legal departments and the competent judicial bodies of football associations, law enforcement representatives and prosecutors, alongside representatives from national Olympic committees, national platforms and government ministries. The participants were able to exchange best practices related to anti-match-fixing activities, reflect on the current situation in each country, learn about recent trends and cases from dedicated expert speakers, and participate in practical exercises.
A shared responsibility
Dieter Braekeveld, integrity in sport training officer at Interpol, underlined the importance of a unified approach: "Fighting match-fixing needs a shared understanding, a shared responsibility, and an environment of trust in which stakeholders can share information and knowledge. UEFA is playing an important role by proactively helping its member associations through the education of integrity officers and support for their investigations."
The programme also includes yesterday’s UEFA anti-match-fixing regional workshop, co-organised and hosted by the HFF. Tomorrow, Thursday, sees the seventh meeting of the Council of Europe’s Follow-Up Committee of the Macolin Convention, at which UEFA is among a number of international organisations with observer status, before the event concludes on Friday with the annual gathering of the EPATHLA.
For HFF integrity officer Dimitris Davakis, the benefits of Sport Integrity Week are clear: "Meetings like this help to reinforce relationships and forge a strong network of colleagues, which is an advantage when we work together on cases and other matters of common concern. UEFA’s assistance and support to national associations are key because only together can we defeat this common enemy."
Regional workshops at the heart of UEFA's strategy
The regional workshops are a new initiative introduced by UEFA in 2023 and form a key pillar of the anti-match-fixing action plan approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in 2021. The core aim is to foster regular engagement between the integrity officers of UEFA’s 55 member associations and to enhance the cooperation of stakeholders at national level.
The first three workshops have taken place in Kosovo, Lithuania and now Greece over the course of this year, gathering together football and judicial representatives from 22 national associations. Next year, the initiative will continue with workshops in Gibraltar, Portugal and Belgium in March, April and November respectively, with the aim of involving the remaining 33 UEFA members.
The workshops operate alongside a comprehensive education and awareness programme implemented in all 55 UEFA member associations. Aimed at young players taking part in UEFA competitions, the education sessions will be integrated into the regulations for UEFA’s HatTrick development programme as from next summer.