“Match-fixing is an obvious violation of public order.”
Interview of Michel Platini – UEFA President, by Stanislas Froissard (21st November 2011)
You recently took part in the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers meeting which adopted a recommendation to the Member States against match-fixing. You were also in Cracow at the informal meeting of EU sports ministers. Why did you want to speak on this matter at intergovernmental meetings
MP: Match-fixing, which is developing in line with the considerable online betting activity, represents one of the most serious threats facing sport today. The growing number of fixed matches linked to betting is alarming, the more so because this scourge affects every discipline and no country is exempt from it.
In the face of this, UEFA and the sports movement have reacted. In fact we have doubled our efforts and initiative and – I can say this without hesitation – our courage in order to try to curb match-fixing. But you must understand that this scourge goes beyond our ability to act, as it has become a major field for organised crime. We cannot crusade against this on our own.
Is it really the role of the state to combat cheating in sport? Couldn’t the sports movement deal with this question independently?
MP: Certain politicians do claim that the independence of sport is a bar to intervention by public authorities. That is not the case. Match-fixing is an obvious violation of public order and, as a consequence of this, intervention by public authorities is justified. What European sport needs is a strategy based partly on making sporting fraud a criminal offence, and partly on recognising the property rights of competition organisers.
Making sporting fraud a criminal offence would go some way towards closing loopholes in legislation on the classic offences of money-laundering, fraud and corruption, which is only of limited relevance here. The chief merit of recognising property rights is that it implies a contract between the operator and the competition organiser. This contract is extremely valuable because it can include transparency obligations and limit the aspects of play which can be the object of gambling. In short, these property rights make a fundamental contribution to protecting the integrity of competitions and complement the criminalisation of sporting fraud.
The main European institutions have reiterated our claims very recently: the European Commission, first, in its communication on sport in January 2011, then in a Green paper on online gambling which appeared in the spring; next the Council of Europe, with its recommendation against match-fixing adopted on 28th September; lastly the European Parliament, with a resolution on online gambling on 15th November 2011 and the report on sport by Mr Santiago Fisas.
Concrete steps must now be taken to translate this political will into reality. These underlying references cannot be ignored by national governments and the European legislature.
In which other areas would UEFA like to see greater cooperation with public authorities in Europe?
MP: One other scourge which demands immediate action is the problem of violence in stadiums. UEFA will never give up on this. I spoke about this recently in Strasbourg, in front of the Ministers’ Deputies of the Council of Europe. We must kick hooliganism and racism out of our stadiums, acting hand in hand with the competent authorities.
With the financial crisis weighing upon our continent today, I think I can say that our initiative entitled “Financial Fair Play” is more than ever deserving of public authority support. “Financial Fair Play” is based on a simple tenet and imbued with good sense: it says that clubs should not spend more money than they possess. That will be a necessary and indispensable condition for participation in the Champions League and the Europa League. The long-term financial stability of our sport is at stake here, so we expect a strong political sign from national governments and the European Union.
I have already had to draw the attention of Sports Ministers to the protection of national teams, whose sustainability is under threat: there is now nothing to guarantee that players will be made available when they are called on to play for their national team. Bearing in mind the crucial importance of international competitions for financing grass-roots sport, there is room here for great anxiety. The Spanish government understood this and has passed a law on sport ensuring that players are made available for the national team systematically. This approach seems to me to be thoroughly positive and it would be a good thing were it to become current in all the European states.
Good governance of our sport requires the definition of a well-established legal framework. This is neither more nor less than a consequence of the “specificity of sport”. It is the price to be paid for sustainable European sport….