The 20 clubs involved in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, and the 76 clubs set for action in the UEFA Europa League play-offs, were today asked to be vigilant and help protect the game from threats such as illegal betting and match-fixing.
With each of these clubs two games away from the group stage of their respective European competition, all eyes were on the play-off draws in Nyon. Yet before the draws were conducted, UEFA's general secretary Gianni Infantino encouraged the club representatives to assist UEFA in tackling the dangerous outside influences that threaten football's integrity.
To the 20 teams waiting to find out their opponents in either the champions route or the league route of the UEFA Champions League play-offs, he said: "In these uncertain times we must take care to protect our game. Threats from outside the game, including illegal betting and match-fixing, are a cause for real concern. We have seen major incidents in domestic leagues in Turkey, Greece and Italy, where matches remain under investigation. And UEFA is working hard behind the scenes to help rid the game of these threats.
"We are constantly monitoring all European domestic top league matches, as well as all UEFA matches, for any signs of unusual betting patterns," the UEFA general secretary continued. "And to reiterate the warnings made earlier this season, I would like to remind you all that UEFA has a zero tolerance policy towards any involvement in illegal betting or irregular activities connected to our matches.
"Armed with new, tougher disciplinary regulations, we will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute any individual or any club that is caught."
The same message went out to the 76 sides ready to participate in the UEFA Europa League play-offs, with their representatives advised to be on their guard and alert to this threat. "I take this opportunity to remind you all about the serious implications surrounding the game currently," Mr Infantino said, adding: "It is important that we face this threat to our game together and act quickly and decisively in order to deal with the issue."
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