The first-ever Integrity Officers workshop finished today at UEFA Headquarters with a stark warning from UEFA President Michel Platini about the dangers of match-fixing in football. “Football, like most sporting disciplines, is in mortal danger,” Mr Platini said. “The very essence of our sport is based on the integrity of results, from school sport up to the World Cup. Obviously, the credibility of every competition is affected. If the dice are loaded, what is the point of taking part or getting enthusiastic? “Today, there is not a week that goes by without newspaper headlines which speak of a suspicion, an inquiry or an arrest linked to the integrity of our competitions. Nevertheless, I refuse to resign myself vis-à-vis this mortal danger, and I know that the entire football family is ready to counter-attack.”
Mr Platini said that sport by itself can do nothing against organised crime. “Sport’s justice authorities alone cannot confront this type of challenge with its own tools. And this is where you come into play,” he told the Integrity Officers. “In each country and national association, you are there to reinforce the links between football and its disciplinary authorities and the national and continental police and judicial instances. You bring your knowledge of football and its actors and players to the professionals. You play a crucial role in defending our sport, in the fight against organised crime and to help bring about a cleansing of our competitions at all levels”.
Earlier this year, UEFA’s Executive Committee approved a report by its betting/match-fixing working group, which proposed measures that European football should take to address the threat of match-fixing – including the setting up of a network of Integrity Officers at European level. 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 will exchange information and experience with the UEFA administration regarding the prosecution of corrupt or criminal practices affecting football. They will monitor disciplinary proceedings and coordinate relevant action, as well as organise educational programmes for players, referees and coaches as part of an effective preventative strategy.
UEFA will make annual funds available to each national member association to help finance the position of Integrity Officer. UEFA’s own Integrity Officer will work alongside his or her national counterpart, supporting the operation of the network and overseeing intelligence gathering and information exchange and experience. “Our policy is one of zero tolerance to those who are caught,” UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino told the seminar. “It is crucial that we protect the soul of our sport. The UEFA General Secretary emphasised the importance of cooperation between sports organisations and state authorities. “We can help the public prosecutors and authorities,” said Mr Infantino, “and they can help us in exchanging information, knowing that we can be very fast in taking very strong decisions and helping them in their cases.”