Players at the U17 finals have been warned about the threat of match-fixing, UEFA Appeals Body member Ivaylo Ivkov saying: "The consequences are dangerous and can ruin your life."
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"We have no option but to win the battle, otherwise football will be dead." That was UEFA Appeals Body member Ivaylo Ivkov's closing message at the 2015 UEFA European Under-17 Championship match-fixing prevention session.
The 16 teams competing at the expanded finals in Bulgaria have sat through a presentation warning them of the threats posed by match-fixing. Ivkov said education and increasing awareness among young players such as those sat before him was "one of the main goals of UEFA" and vital to protect football. "The result of a game must remain uncertain until it is completed," he stressed.
Defined as the "manipulation of a 'result' of a fixture in order to win large amounts of money through betting", match-fixing is a threat to the game's existence and, above all, integrity. UEFA has a zero-tolerance approach and attempts to stay one step ahead of those involved by monitoring the betting markets. It is a painstaking task: Ivkov spoke of there being over 90,000 betting companies worldwide.
Ivkov told the players, gathered at the teams' beachfront hotel in Pomorie on the Black Sea coast, that match-fixing not only encompasses the overall outcome of a fixture. It can involve almost anything that can be bet on, such as the number of bookings, goals, fouls or substitutes.
Players should be wary of gifts offered by people claiming to be their friends, for they could later attempt to influence them. "It is very difficult to sometimes differentiate a match-fixer from an ordinary person – you have to be careful during your career," explained Ivkov. Money, he outlined, is the sole motivating factor. "Match-fixers come from the world of organised crime – financial reward is their only interest. They are dangerous people. We want to protect you."
Becoming embroiled in match-fixing can have serious implications. "The consequeances are dangerous and can ruin your life – not only your career – because match-fixing is a crime," underlined Ivkov. "If you agree to fix a match they will never forget you. They will ask and ask again and sometimes force you to do it."
Sanctions include life bans for players and clubs being barred from entering UEFA competition. The key to avoiding this is awareness. If you are approached, Ivkov said, remember the three 'Rs': recognise (what is happening); reject (say 'no'); and report (tell somebody).