Michel Platini urged the Council of Europe to help seek solutions in a speech covering the topics of match fixing, violence in stadiums, financial fair play and national team football.
The fight against match-fixing; eliminating violence in the stadiums; the need for financial fair play in European club football; and the importance of national teams. These were the main topics of UEFA President Michel Platini's keynote speech to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
Mr Platini urged the council to help seek solutions and to make a lasting and fruitful contribution to ensuring football's future well-being at a time when the game is confronted by a number of challenges.
On the topic of match-fixing, the UEFA President said the phenomenon was developing in liaison with online betting activities. "European football is afraid, and I think I can even say that European sport as a whole is afraid. The growth of betting-related match-fixing is alarming," he said, "especially because it is a problem to which no sport and no country is immune.
"Of course, the sports movement has not been sitting idly by – there have been targeted awareness campaigns, expensive monitoring mechanisms, disciplinary procedures, and so on. However, necessary though they are, these initiatives do not suffice. Especially when match-fixing is orchestrated by criminal organisations.
"So what about the criminal codes of European states? Experience here shows that, unfortunately, the traditional concepts of money laundering, corruption and fraud are of limited relevance," Mr Platini went on. "This is why some countries have established sports fraud as a specific criminal offence, in order to breach the gap. This is the case in Italy, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland and Bulgaria.
"However, the criminalisation of sports fraud is far from universal. And this deficiency is, in part, why match-fixing is still going on. Its international nature aggravates the situation further still.
"This is why I believe the Council of Europe now needs to intervene. It needs to intervene in order to encourage its member states to criminalise sports fraud and it needs to act in order to promote the indispensable cooperation between public authorities and sports governing bodies required in this regard. It is a question of responsibility, a question of ethics, a question of justice."
The UEFA President then turned to violence in stadiums. "There is no possible justification for this needless, gratuitous evil which disgusts me and fills me with shame," he said. "Despite the progress that has been made in this area over the last few years, you will be aware that violent and discriminatory behaviour continues to rear its ugly head inside our stadiums. But we should not and cannot afford to sink into fatalism or despair.
"You can be sure that we will not make any compromises with hooliganism and we will redouble our efforts to kick violence out of our stadiums, to eliminate it. Notice, I did not say reduce, limit or contain – I said 'eliminate' it. I believe it is possible to eliminate violence in our stadiums. Legislators and governments must, in any case, think about it constantly and relentlessly; in matters such as this, as long as everything possible has not been done, our duty has not been fulfilled."
UEFA has introduced financial fair play measures designed to secure European club football's long-term stability. "My mission as UEFA President is to guarantee the sustainable development of football," said Mr Platini. "[This] means encouraging clubs to adopt a culture of planning and sensible investment. This is more important now than ever, I am sure you will agree, when you consider that football clubs in Europe accumulated losses of more than €1.2 billion last year.
"I therefore want to urge European clubs to listen to the voice of reason, which is telling them: 'Do not spend more money than you have or you risk sending football down the road to ruin.' This message forms the basis of financial fair play.
"Respect for financial fair play will be a necessary and indispensable condition of participation in the Champions League and Europa League. UEFA will see this project through to the end, since it has no selfish goals to defend – its only objective is to look after the interests of European football as a whole."
UEFA is determined to promote national-team football as a crucial component of the European football landscape. "If sport were a living being," Mr Platini said, "the national teams would be its heart. A heart whose beats shape the European sports model, a heart whose beats inspire excellence, a heart whose beats contribute to the long-term financing of popular sport.
"Today, however, the survival of the national teams is under threat," he added. "There are no more guarantees that a player called up for his national team will effectively play with his national team. And in view of the absolute importance of competitions between national teams for financial solidarity, there are therefore serious grounds for concern. The European sports model is based on open competitions in which clubs and national teams coexist in harmony.
"As if it were necessary," the UEFA President reflected, "these considerations demonstrate one more thing – something equally fundamental, the fact that sport needs a legal framework that is robust, clear and predictable. For we should not be subjected to the future; we should shape it.
"Of course, there is still plenty for us to do," Mr Platini said in closing his address. "But I remain convinced that we will make excellent progress together. My most heartfelt desire is that you support our work and that your ambition and determination make a positive contribution to the healthy development of European sport."