European football’s governing body UEFA and European police agency Europol will work together to identify new ways to fight corruption and match-fixing in the game, they announced on Tuesday.
More than 100 representatives across law enforcement, judicial authorities and national football associations from 49 countries attended a joint conference in The Hague to discuss how to protect the integrity of the sport.
“Organised crime quickly understood that a lot of football clubs were suffering financially as a consequence of COVID-19,” said Burkhard Muehl, a senior Europol official.
“And where there is less money, players, coaches, officials and even club executives are increasingly vulnerable to being corrupted by fixers.”
UEFA published a report in February which showed the coronavirus pandemic had cost clubs in Europe seven billion euros (7.46 million) over the past two seasons.
“With the huge profits associated with ‘making the unpredictable predictable’, we are seeing more and more cases of match-fixing and suspicious results,” added Muehl.
“Cooperation between law enforcement and sports organisations is vital to not only detect and investigate suspected corruption in football, but also to stop such fraudulent activities before they can even begin.”
Muehl is head of Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC), which works with law enforcement across the EU and identifies links between suspicious matches and suspects.
UEFA’s team of anti-match-fixing experts focuses on education, intelligence, investigation and cooperation with its network of specialists, placing strong emphasis on preventing problems linked to match-fixing and irregular betting.