Union of European Football Associations president Michel Platini has some pretty strong views about the impact of betting on sports, which he voiced on Friday in Athens when he urged European lawmakers to use the EU bloc-wide liberalisation of gambling to protect football from illegal betting syndicates – especially those from Asia.
“We have this incredible opportunity in the coming weeks or months through the liberalisation of betting,” Platini told a press conference at the end of a Council of Europe-organised conference held in the Greek capital to tackle problems concerning ethics in sport. “Before, betting was state-run, now anybody can organise bets… Today, most illegal forms of betting come from Asia or China. The very honest betting in Europe in tax havens is one issue, but betting in Asia is more borderline.”
Agence France Presse reports that Platini told the Council of Europe “….my role is to tell politicians to give us that legal framework… for the moment, [the regulations] are very business, competition-focused. We have to be able to prosecute, but it’s not for UEFA to see if it is the referee, or players or club leaders,” he said. “UEFA has no jurisdiction, which is why I have said we need a European sports police.”
Platini observed that European sport has other problems, but the danger of betting was that the very spirit of sporting competition could be destroyed.
“Through UEFA we are putting our money where our mouths are… illegal betting is the real scourge, it’s a terrible scourge for football as a whole,” he alleged.
Platini said that UEFA will propose at its upcoming Congress that the warning system applied to UEFA competitions be extended to domestic competitions – with European football’s governing body offering funding to national associations. The alternative was the death of the entire system, he gloomily predicted.
The conference examined several other, non-gambling-related issues, including the behaviour of travelling football fans and nationalistic fervour. Platini drew some laughter during his speech when he cautioned Europe to stop regarding incoming fans travelling to cross-border matches as being akin to the invasion of “Attila the Hun”!