UEFA has warned of the dangers and risks involved in match-fixing, with Europe's top referees urged to contribute in rooting out the cheats who are endangering football's wellbeing.
Match officials at UEFA's winter referees' course in Rome watched a presentation which highlighted the European body's zero-tolerance stance towards match-fixing and corruption. They were told to report any approaches made to them or attempts to involve them in what was described as a "cancer" on the game.
"Match-fixing is cheating to lose," UEFA intelligence coordinator Graham Peaker told the audience. "It's a problem which football has to face – people throwing a match on purpose.
"UEFA has to protect football," he added. "The integrity of our game is at risk. All football matches have to be played according to values of fairness and respect, with the result uncertain until the final whistle. Match-fixers do not understand this. All they are interested in is financial reward. They are dangerous people – they can make huge amounts of money by fixing matches."
Peaker explained the ways in which UEFA is working hard to combat match-fixing and corruption. The UEFA betting fraud detection system is monitoring some 30,000 domestic matches – top and second divisions – as well as 1,800 UEFA games each year. Integrity officers are being deployed by UEFA throughout its member associations, who are working against match-fixing at a domestic level and liaising with UEFA on any integrity matter which arises with respect to their matches or their teams taking part in UEFA competitions.
UEFA is building a comprehensive internal database containing match-related information and data from diverse sources. It enables the European governing body to cooperate with law enforcement agencies and state prosecutors in their inquiries into cases of the corruption of matches. In addition, UEFA is campaigning for the recognition of sports fraud as a crime.
"Zero tolerance is the key," said Peaker. "UEFA will punish anyone involved in match-fixing. They will be given a red card for life. We want to protect football – match-fixing is a threat to the sport's popularity, and fans will not go to matches if they know that the match has already been thrown."
Peaker asked the match officials to remember "Three Rs" – to recognise when an approach was being made, to resist any attempt to engage them by saying 'no', and to report the incident to their national association or UEFA.
David Elleray, UEFA Referees Committee member, also emphasised a similar theme in a presentation at the Rome course, reminding the new European referees – newcomers to the FIFA list – that they are ambassadors and diplomats not only for UEFA and FIFA, but also for football. "Your integrity should never be in doubt," he said. "Ambassadors and diplomats do not tolerate anything which is dishonest, corrupt, unethical or even doubtful."