The eight teams at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship have each been given a presentation informing and warning them about the threat posed by match-fixing.
"If you are found to be involved in match-fixing, you will be banned from football for life" – that has been the message to players at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Lithuania.
UEFA's fight against corruption in football has continued with presentations to each of the eight competing teams, plus the group of match officials, led by UEFA's intelligence coordinator Graham Peaker. "UEFA has a zero tolerance approach to match-fixing," he told his audience. "All football matches are to be played in a spirit of respect and fairness, with the outcome determined solely on the merits of the competing teams and the result uncertain until the match is completed."
The links between match-fixing and organised crime were emphasised, with Peaker pointing out that the currency involved comes from criminal activity and is a form of money laundering. UEFA monitors all matches in its competitions, plus all first and second division and cup games from each of its 54 member national associations throughout Europe. "That's around 32,000 matches each year in total," Peaker explained. "Any match that's manipulated is one too many."
There followed an explanation of how UEFA's betting fraud detection system (BFDS) works, and an explanation of the markets in Europe and Asia. UEFA is in close contact with betting companies to monitor irregular patterns. Furthermore, it works closely with FIFA and the integrity officers at every national association to investigate any possible offences and, if necessary, open disciplinary and even criminal proceedings. "Match-fixing is fraud," said Peaker.
To illustrate how much money is involved, Peaker provided some illuminating examples: it is estimated that more than €1bn was gambled on the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League final in Asia alone, and more than €500bn is legally gambled worldwide on sport every year. It was spelled out why matches are fixed – financial problems for players, coaches, clubs or referees – and how, following massive bets being placed in the Asian markets, key players are told to play a certain way to ensure their side lose. "When a match is fixed, there's always someone involved on the pitch," Peaker said.
UEFA is extremely active in the fight against match-fixing, investigating any games or players that give cause for concern. "Any guilty player will be sanctioned – he's out of the game for life," Peaker made clear. "It's tough but it has to be done." While such presentations help raise awareness, UEFA has also set up a hotline and reporting platform to contact them anonymously and confidentially, and works closely with state authorities to sanction offenders. Players and referees have been banned for life, while clubs have been excluded from UEFA competition.
"Why are we giving you this warning?" Peaker asked his audience. "We want to protect you; you are the stars of the future and we want you in the game. Match-fixing is a threat to the integrity and popularity of football and if you are approached, you must inform UEFA or your national association. Match-fixers are dangerous people.
"If someone asks you to manipulate a match: recognise what is happening, reject it immediately and report it. Don't get involved in organised crime. If anyone is found guilty of involvement, they'll receive a red card from football for life. We want to protect you and protect the game."