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In recent years, football in Europe has been confronted with an increasing number of worrying incidents linked to the manipulation of results (referred to as "match-fixing"). This has coincided with a rapid development of the gambling market, particularly in the online environment. Irrespective of whether matches are manipulated for sporting, financial or other reasons, match-fixing jeopardises the integrity of competition and damages the very soul of our sport.
Match-fixing can be closely associated with serious criminal activities, such as corruption, fraud and money laundering, with the resulting profits feeding other criminal networks. It typically transcends national borders, making detection and prosecution particularly challenging.
Betting fraud detection system
In close cooperation with the international company Sportradar, the UEFA betting fraud detection system, highlights irregular betting movements both pre-match and in-game (live) in all the core betting markets (Asian handicap, Totals and 1X2) from all major European and Asian bookmakers.
This anti-fraud system collects information, investigates suspicious matches and prepares potential disciplinary cases with a view to preventing and combating sports fraud. Reports are supplied to UEFA's national integrity officers who start investigations into these matters and may also cooperate with their partners in the national law enforcement authorities.
UEFA has enacted a clear legal framework, applicable to the competitions that it organises, to combat the risk of match-fixing. Several rules have been introduced, which have also been added to the various competition regulations.
With regard to its competitions, UEFA has a strict approach in its admission criteria since 2007 based on Article 50.3 of the UEFA Statutes:
"The admission to a UEFA competition of a member association or club directly or indirectly involved in any activity aimed at arranging or influencing the outcome of a match at national or international level can be refused with immediate effect, without prejudice to any possible disciplinary measures."
This general provision has been introduced within the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League regulations. In this regard, Arts. 4.02 and 4.03 of the respective regulations, state as follows:
"If, on the basis of all the factual circumstances and information available to UEFA, UEFA concludes to its comfortable satisfaction that a club has been directly and/or indirectly involved, since the entry into force of Article 50(3) of the UEFA Statutes, i.e. 27 April 2007, in any activity aimed at arranging or influencing the outcome of a match at national or international level, UEFA will declare such club ineligible to participate in the competition. Such ineligibility is effective only for one football season.
"When taking its decision, UEFA can rely on, but is not bound by, a decision of a national or international sporting body, arbitral tribunal or state court. UEFA can refrain from declaring a club ineligible to participate in the competition if UEFA is comfortably satisfied that the impact of a decision taken in connection with the same factual circumstances by a national or international sporting body, arbitral tribunal or state court has already had the effect to prevent that club from participating in a UEFA club competition.
"In addition to the administrative measure of declaring a club ineligible, as provided for in paragraph 4.02, the UEFA Organs for the Administration of Justice can, if the circumstances so justify, also take disciplinary measures in accordance with the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations."
In its disciplinary regulations UEFA establishes that all persons bound by UEFA's rules and regulations must refrain from any behaviour that damages or could damage the integrity of matches and competitions and must cooperate fully with UEFA at all times in its efforts to combat such behaviour (Article 12).
For example, the integrity of matches and competitions is violated, by anyone:
- who acts in a manner that is likely to exert an unlawful or undue influence on the course and/or result of a match or competition with a view to gaining an advantage for himself or a third party;
- who participates directly or indirectly in betting or similar activities relating to competition matches or who has a direct or indirect financial interest in such activities;
- who uses or provides others with information which is not publicly available, which is obtained through his position in football, and damages or could damage the integrity of a match or competition;
- who does not immediately and voluntarily inform UEFA if approached in connection with activities aimed at influencing in a unlawful or undue manner the course and/or result of a match or competition;
- who does not immediately and voluntarily report to UEFA any behaviour he is aware of that may fall within the scope of this article.
In 2014, the XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress held in Astana on 27 March unanimously approved the resolution "European football united for the integrity of the game”. This resolution has determined 11 comprehensive points which provide a legal base for actions and harmonisation of the rules in each UEFA member association.
Since 2011, UEFA has established a network of integrity officers throughout its national associations.
As well as acting as liaison officer for cooperation between the football authorities and state law enforcement agencies in relation to suspected match-fixing, integrity officers exchange information and experience with the UEFA administration regarding the prosecution of corrupt or criminal practices affecting football, monitor disciplinary proceedings and coordinate action in this sphere. They also organise educational programmes for players, referees and coaches as part of an effective prevention strategy to combat match-fixing.
UEFA's own integrity officer works alongside his or her national counterpart in a mutually supportive manner. In this connection, the UEFA integrity officer supports the operation of the network, as well as overseeing intelligence gathering and information and experience exchange, all with the aim of ensuring that European football is best able to tackle the threat of match-fixing in an efficient, coordinated and professional manner.
Regional seminars are being run in order to share expertise and update the national integrity officers with strategies and tools for their daily work in investigating and preventing match-fixing.
It is vital that all participants, including players, officials and referees, are made fully aware of the anti-fraud rules, including their duty to report improper approaches. Where there is comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the relevant risks, incidents of match-fixing can better be prevented.
For a number of years, UEFA has run onsite and e-learning education programmes for players, referees and match officials to inform, educate and provide them with general advice on the issues surrounding sports betting, including perils they may encounter and ways in which they can report suspicious approaches. Briefing sessions and workshops are organised all year round alongside UEFA tournaments. Particular attention is given to youth competitions.
One of the duties of the national integrity officers is to arrange and oversee educational seminars and courses in this field. Many national associations have launched or are working on comprehensive programmes for their members of the football family.
UEFA and Europol
On 27 May 2014, UEFA and Europol signed an important Memorandum of Understanding to fight against match-fixing at European level.
Europol is the European Union's law enforcement agency whose main goal is to help achieve a safer Europe for the benefit of all EU citizens.
The scope of the memorandum includes the mutual provision of expertise and constant consultation in the areas of match-fixing in football and related organised crime, as well as the exchange of information and know-how related to those areas.
Europol and UEFA pledge to cooperate in joint activities and in implementing relevant projects, and to exchange information on suspected match-fixing cases and the methods used by individuals or criminal organisations to manipulate matches. Europol provides expert assistance and advice to UEFA and its 55 member associations on key aspects of contemporary criminal organisation in the area of match-fixing.
Mutual support will be given in education programmes, and Europol and UEFA will also liaise on matters concerning individual relations with law enforcement bodies, as well as with UEFA member associations.
The memorandum of understanding between UEFA and Europol is a crucial step forward in the campaign to combat match-fixing in European football. UEFA has made this campaign a major priority, given that match-fixing represents a serious threat to the essential integrity of football and its competitions.
Europol, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands, works together with EU member states, other partner states and other organisations in the fight against serious international crime, undertaking intelligence and investigatory work and collecting and disseminating information to national law enforcement agencies.
Since 2011, Europol has assisted EU law enforcement authorities in analysing data from investigations into sports corruption, primarily football matches. Earlier this year Europol formally opened a 'Focal Point Sports Corruption' which so far has 14 EU member states participating plus two non-EU countries and Interpol.
UEFA and football's stakeholders
UEFA maintains excellent relationships with football's stakeholders to tackle the problem of match-fixing at European level.
In this regard, since the resolution passed by the UEFA Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC) in 2010, the position of the UEFA PFSC has been very active in this field.
In 2014, the PSFC launched a very important initiative called Code of Conduct for European Football. This code of conduct was agreed and approved by the four organisations representing the interests of European professional football stakeholders in the UEFA PSFC: ECA, FIFPRO, EPFL and UEFA.
This code of conduct sets out the guiding principles for all players, referees, clubs and other officials on the issues surrounding the integrity of football. It aims to promote the highest standards of conduct in the organisation, playing and officiating of football and serves as a reference for code of conducts at national level.
In 2014, UEFA set up a permanent working group in order to analyse and tackle match-fixing across Europe.
The idea behind this working group is to involve members of law-enforcement of other jurisdictions as well as Europol representatives, leading politicians and experts that have in the past contributed to the fight against match-fixing and can certainly play an important role in this field.
UEFA holds one or two meetings a year of this working group. In these meetings, the members exchange information and practices, advising UEFA on how to protect European football from match-fixers.
UEFA is following a strict zero-tolerance policy, and serious sanctions (including lifetime bans from football) have been imposed in cases where players, officials or referees were found guilty of breaching these provisions.
Close cooperation involving the exchange of information between public authorities and sports bodies is essential. Indeed, it is vital that criminal investigations can benefit from a good insight into the unique features of the sports sector and sports betting markets. This would be of assistance in the detection and prosecution of serious crime.
At the same time, disciplinary measures taken by the sporting authorities (often using information made available as a result of a state criminal investigation) can serve as an effective deterrent for those in the sporting community. The effective application of sporting sanctions will generally depend on the existence of a close working relationship between sports bodies and state authorities, so that intelligence obtained in the context of criminal investigations is readily imparted to sports bodies for the purposes of their own disciplinary procedures.
All in all, there seems to be a consensus calling for the establishment of appropriate means of sharing information between sports disciplinary services and public investigatory and prosecuting authorities. Close collaboration and direct communication between the different parties is paramount.
Based on the mutual cooperation between UEFA and Europol, other law enforcement agencies around Europe and the daily reports of the UEFA betting fraud detection system – which UEFA manages with the collaboration of the international company Sportradar – listed below are some of the most important cases prosecuted by UEFA and forwarded to the UEFA disciplinary bodies in the last years:
|FK Pobeda||Club: 8 year ban from UEFA competitions
President: life ban
|Tomislav Šetka||One year and six months suspension||2010|
|Novo Panić||Life ban||2010|
|Oleg Oriekhov||Life ban||2010|
|Vukašin Poleksić||One year and six months suspension||2010|
|Olympiacos Volou FC||One year of ineligibility in UEFA competitions||2011|
|SK Sigma Olomouc||One year of ineligibility in UEFA competitions||2012|
|Kevin Sammut||Life ban*||2012|
|Fenerbahçe SK||Two years of ineligibility in UEFA competitions||2013|
|Beşiktaş JK||One year of ineligibility in UEFA competitions||2013|
|FC Metalist Kharkiv||One year of ineligibility in UEFA competitions||2013|
|Vasile Mungiu||Life ban||2013|
|Andranik Arsenyan &
|Eskişehirspor||One year of ineligibility in UEFA competitions||2014|
|Sivasspor||One year of ineligibility in UEFA competitions||2014|
|KF Skënderbeu||One year of ineligibility in UEFA competitions||2016|
All these cases have been confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), in case in which the party lodged an appeal against the previous decision rendered by UEFA.
*In the case of Kevin Sammut, the CAS reduced the sanction to 10 years.
UEFA has developed, and finances, a number of initiatives designed to protect the integrity of European football. They include in particular:
- A confidential reporting platform: The UEFA Integrity Platform (desktop and app) allows individuals to provide valuable information to UEFA concerning match-fixing or corruption. This may be information concerning a match, a player, a match official (a referee or an assistant referee) or any other individual linked to football.
Integrity matters are administered by the disciplinary and integrity unit, which is headed up by Emilio García under UEFA's legal affairs division director Alasdair Bell.
UEFA EURO 2016
For the first time, UEFA implemented a comprehensive integrity programme for the 15th UEFA European Championship, UEFA EURO 2016.
The integrity programme, which incorporated education, monitoring and cooperation with key stakeholders, as well as UEFA's legal framework, began in April when the full contingent of match officials selected to referee the 51 EURO matches received a match-fixing prevention presentation at their base hotel north of Paris. The fundamentals of the problem were explained to the referees and their assistants - how to react to an approach from a match-fixer; how the use of 'inside information' can be detrimental; and how betting on competition matches was not allowed.
Following this, each of the 24 participating teams received a similar presentation during the course of their preparatory friendly matches. A short video was produced in the 18 languages of the teams and was shown at these prevention sessions. The video and presentations emphasised the fact that match-fixing is a criminal offence in France, and that any suspicious activity would be dealt with by both UEFA and local law enforcements agencies.
In addition to the education given to all players and match officials, the 6,500 volunteers working at EURO 2016 completed an e-learning programme which included a module on match-fixing.
As with all of UEFA's competition matches, the betting patterns at the final tournament matches were monitored by the UEFA Betting Fraud Detection System, with the aim of detecting any irregularities that could be an indication of a manipulation. No irregularities were detected in any of the 51 matches played.
Given that match-fixing is a criminal offence in France, and to ensure that UEFA was fully prepared to deal with an eventual incident, a working group was formed that included key stakeholders. The French police and justice department, ARJEL (the French online gambling authority), Europol, Sportradar (UEFA's partner in monitoring) and the French state lottery joined forces with UEFA, and met regularly during the EURO in Paris, to guarantee that the correct procedures were followed.