In recent years, football in Europe has been confronted with an increasing number of worrying incidents linked to the manipulation of results (referred to as "match-fixing"). This has coincided with a rapid development of the gambling market, particularly in the online environment. Irrespective of whether matches are manipulated for sporting, financial or other reasons, match-fixing jeopardises the integrity of competition and damages the very soul of our sport.
Match-fixing can be closely associated with serious criminal activities, such as corruption, fraud and money laundering, with the resulting profits feeding other criminal networks. It typically transcends national borders, making detection and prosecution particularly challenging.
UEFA has developed, and finances, a number of initiatives designed to protect the integrity of European football. They include in particular:
- UEFA betting fraud detection system: UEFA, in cooperation with the international company Sportradar, operates a betting fraud detection system (BFDS), which monitors and analyses betting activities on about 32,000 matches in Europe each year (comprising UEFA competitions and the top two domestic divisions and cup competitions of the member associations). The system has been fully operational since July 2009. The BFDS highlights irregular betting movements both pre-match and in-game (live) in all the core betting markets (Asian handicap, Totals and 1X2) from all major European and Asian bookmakers.
- A specific regulatory framework: UEFA has enacted disciplinary regulations, applicable to the competitions that it organises, to combat the risk of match-fixing. Moreover, the UEFA Congress – the supreme controlling organ of UEFA – adopted a particular resolution at its XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress in Astana on 27 March 2014, "European football united for the integrity of the game".
- A network of integrity officers in each national association: UEFA has created a network of integrity officers within the body's national associations, who are liaising with the local law enforcement agencies, and are also implementing education and prevention schemes in their respective countries.
- A group of education programmes: UEFA has established onsite and online education programmes for players, referees and club coaches to inform, educate and provide them with general advice on the issues surrounding sports betting, including risks they may encounter and ways in which they can report suspicious approaches.
- A code of conduct in cooperation with football's stakeholders: In 2014, the UEFA Professional Football Strategy Council launched a very important initiative called Code of Conduct for European Football. This code of conduct was agreed and approved by the four organisations representing the interests of European professional football stakeholders in the UEFA PFSC: ECA, FIFPRO, EPFL and UEFA.
- A formal cooperation agreements with the European law enforcement agency (Europol): In 2014, UEFA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency whose main goal is to help achieve a safer Europe for the benefit of all EU citizens. The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding is to establish a mutual framework for cooperation between Europol and UEFA. The cooperation facilitates the collaboration between UEFA and EUROPOL with the aim to fight the phenomenon of match-fixing in football in Europe, to improve mutual coordination and to ensure greater complementarity. UEFA is also maintaining a direct exchange with national law enforcement bodies across Europe for several investigations.
- A permanent working group on match-fixing: In 2014, UEFA set up a permanent working group in order to analyse and tackle the phenomenon of match-fixing across Europe. The idea behind this working group is to involve members of law enforcement of other jurisdictions as well as Europol representatives, leading politicians and experts that have in the past contributed to the fight against match-fixing and who are playing an important role in this field.
- A group of UEFA Disciplinary Inspectors to conduct investigations over European football matches: Based on the information provided every day by the UEFA BFDS, by reports from the confidential platform and following the cooperation with Europol, UEFA conducts investigations on European football matches. As soon as UEFA collects the evidence, the case is forwarded to the disciplinary bodies. In the last six years, UEFA has been extremely active taking disciplinary decisions against clubs, officials and players at national and international level in order to protect European football.
- A confidential reporting platform: The UEFA Integrity Platform (desktop and app) allows individuals to provide valuable information to UEFA concerning match-fixing or corruption. This may be information concerning a match, a player, a match official (a referee or an assistant referee) or any other individual linked to football.
Integrity matters are administered by the disciplinary and integrity unit, which is headed up by Emilio García under UEFA's legal affairs division director Alasdair Bell.