Michel Platini, head of UEFA, on match-fixing at the Council of Europe. An excellent
speech from a man who has fought hard against corruption in sport. A bit too light
on the politicians at the end, but overall good work.
EMBARGO: 28 Sept. 11.30am
Friends of football,
As I arrived this morning at this prestigious venue, very close to the region in which I
was born, I thought about how much time has passed since I first went to school –
and took my first free kicks! It all happened in Lorraine, just a few kilometres from
where we are today in Alsace. It was a long time before I set off to discover Europe,
your Europe. It was also a long time before European football appointed me its
leader, entrusting me with finding long-term solutions for the future of football…
I am delighted to be able to tell you about these solutions today. Why? Quite simply
because your assembly and I are old friends. Old friends because your assembly
brings together ambassadors of countries that I know well, having visited each one of
them and seen, sometimes with surprise, always with enthusiasm, often with wonder,
the importance of football, the passion of your people for the beautiful game and the
pleasure your children gain from simply kicking a ball.
Although I stand before you today with a deep sense of modesty, I am also more
determined than ever. Determined, first of all, to persuade you to offer a helping hand
to the football of tomorrow. Determined, also, to involve you in a fight that we will
wage with firmness, dignity and realism. Determined, finally, to address with you
certain evils that are damaging European society precisely where it is at its most
vulnerable. These evils we must overcome are not just everyday evils: they affect the
very roots of what Pierre de Coubertin rightly called “the glorious uncertainty of
Ladies and gentlemen, European football is afraid. European football is afraid, and I
think I can even say that European sport as a whole is afraid…
European sport is afraid because of a match-fixing phenomenon that is developing in
connection with large-scale online betting activities. The growth of betting-related
match fixing is alarming, especially because it is a problem to which no sport and no
country is immune.
Of course, the sports movement has not been sitting idly by: there have been
targeted awareness campaigns, expensive monitoring mechanisms, disciplinary
procedures, and so on. However, necessary though they are, these initiatives do not
suffice. Especially when match fixing is orchestrated by criminal organisations.
So what about the criminal codes of European states? Well, experience here shows
that, unfortunately, the traditional concepts of money laundering, corruption and fraud
are of limited relevance. This is why some countries have established sports fraud as
a specific criminal offence, in order to breach the gap. This is the case in Italy,
Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland and Bulgaria.
However, the criminalisation of sports fraud is far from universal. And this deficiency
is, in part, why match fixing is still going on. Its international nature aggravates the
situation further still.
This is why I believe the Council of Europe now needs to intervene. It needs to
intervene in order to encourage its member states to criminalise sports fraud and it
needs to act in order to promote the indispensable cooperation between public
authorities and sports governing bodies required in this regard. It is a question of
responsibility, a question of ethics, a question of justice.
I would also like to reaffirm UEFA’s commitment to the federations’ rights of
ownership over the competitions that they organise.
In the context of betting, this ownership right implies that online betting operators can
only offer betting services on a particular competition if they have concluded a prior
agreement with its organiser. As is already the case in France.
This approach needs to be broadened, because in practice, this ownership right
requires a contract to be drawn up between the betting operator and the competition
organiser. This contract is extremely important because it is necessary to lay down
transparency obligations and limit the aspects of the game on which bets can be
placed. In short, as I’m sure you understand, this ownership right helps to protect the
integrity of competitions in a fundamental way and complements the criminalisation
of sports fraud.
Recognition of our ownership rights and criminalisation of sports fraud… These two
principles are the basis for responsible, forceful and courageous intervention by
legislators. I also hope that your colleagues at the European Parliament, who will be
adopting an important report on online betting in a few days’ time, will take them into
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached a point at which the public authorities can
no longer evade their responsibilities. This is why I fully endorse the recommendation
that you have just approved. It is only the first step, but it is a decisive one. It is a
logical step towards the adoption of an international convention against match fixing.
It would be wonderful if this assembly could unite in order to pursue this goal – or
should I say to score this goal – this necessary goal of combating match fixing.
You heard me say a few minutes ago that European sport is afraid. But I think I can
safely say that the Council of Europe has managed to turn this fear around and
harness the energy produced. I commend it for this.
Of course, there is still plenty for us to do. But I remain convinced that we will make
excellent progress together. My most heartfelt desire is that you support our work and
that your ambition and determination make a positive contribution to the healthy
development of European sport.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am counting on you for today… And for the future.