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Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
Match-fixing, a threat to the integrity of sport
European Parliament Conference on "How to regulate betting and gambling in Europe"
Brussels, 27 June 2012
It is with great pleasure that I am with you today, in the company of so many distinguished experts. I would like to thank the European Parliament for hosting this event, and in particular the three Members who were instrumental in organising it: Mr Creutzmann, Mr Abad and Ms Schaldemose.
I will focus my intervention on the specific issue of match-fixing, which is a topical one at the moment.
Sadly, over the past months, a number of new scandals have emerged that have shaken the sports movement. They remind us that match-fixing is one of the main threats to the integrity of sport; possibly the greatest threat, as the chairman of UEFA, Michel Platini has recently said. Sport organizations are taking a firm stance against every instance of match-fixing.
And we stand by their side. The EU has a stake in this fight. Let us not forget that we are treaty-bound to promote fairness in sporting competitions and to ensure the physical and moral integrity of our athletes.
In full respect of the competence of Member States and of the autonomy of sport organisations, we intend to play our role to the full.
We have recently published a study on the national legal frameworks for combating sporting fraud in the Member States. The purpose of this study was to improve our knowledge about how corruption in sport, specifically match-fixing, is covered in national criminal law, in order to better target our action at EU level.
It contains a number of recommendations on areas where our work could focus: such as overcoming loopholes in national legislation, improving police and judicial cooperation, and intensifying the exchange of information and best practices. Instead of embarking on a long-term harmonisation process, we should deliver concrete and pragmatic solutions.
We have two organisations in Europe which deal with cooperation in cross-border investigation and the prosecution of serious crimes: EUROPOL and EUROJUST.
The Commission can help these agencies cooperate more closely with the sport movement and give higher priority to match fixing in their activities.
My colleague, Commissioner Barnier, who will be with you later today, has also been working on a number of initiatives: such as the Green Paper on online gambling and its follow-up, and the creation of a discussion platform for national gambling regulators. But he will certainly tell you more about these later.
Prevention and EU funding
There is also a lot that can be done in terms of prevention.
I am thinking, in particular, of educational programmes and awareness-raising campaigns. These are essential in reaching those most at risk of being approached to fix matches: players, referees and match officials.
Here, the EU dimension in sport becomes vital, because the EU can play an instrumental role in coordinating and financing such programmes and campaigns.
We have included the fight against match fixing as a priority theme of this year's Preparatory Actions in the field of sport.
In April we published a call for projects which, once selected, will run from next year up until the first half of 2014.
In 2014, when the EU's new seven-year funding period begins, we should have a dedicated budget for sport, and we have proposed that the fight against international threats to sport, including match fixing, be covered in our future Erasmus for All programme.
The Council of Europe
But beyond what the EU can do to safeguard the integrity of sport, we are also working actively with the Council of Europe. Council of Europe Sport Ministers have expressed their support for a Convention in this field. The Committee of Ministers also recently endorsed this proposal, and we understand that negotiation on the future Convention will be launched in the autumn 2012.
A European Convention could send a powerful signal that public authorities are committed to fight match fixing. It would establish common pan-European standards to preserve integrity of sport against manipulation of results. It would also create a useful platform for pan-European cooperation by involving all the parties that need to work together: the public authorities, the sport movement and betting operators.
It is an initiative that deserves to be supported. And I believe that a united EU voice in this field would send a strong message and give impetus to the whole process. We are currently reflecting on how the EU may be represented at the negotiating table and bring added value in this framework.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The issue of match fixing is high on the political agenda, and we are concretely pursuing a number of initiatives in parallel to fight it.
We need to coordinate and manage the different processes I have recalled, and conferences like today, where we have a meeting of minds, are essential in order to avoid duplication and maximise our effectiveness.
That is why I was so happy to accept your invitation.
I am sorry that I am unable to stay at the Conference for the rest of the afternoon, but I look forward to hearing about the stimulating ideas that will be shared at today's event, and I wish you a successful debate.