DOHA — The European Club Association (ECA) has agreed to expel members who have fixed football matches, just days after the European police agency Europol issued a report showing the problem was widespread.
The 200-member ECA, meeting in Qatar, on Wednesday approved the measure, which also allows it to kick clubs out for doping or racism.
In the past, it only warned clubs for such behaviour.
The clubs felt it was “their duty” to act, ECA general secretary Michele Centenaro said.
He did not say whether the move was in response to a report from Europol on Monday that said more than 380 matches were suspicious, including World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and two Champions League games.
“Before, it was sort of a warning, and now it is a duty and commitment we ask of our clubs,” Centenaro said. “We are a responsible organisation and we feel our members are committed to certain values and … we defend those values.”
But Turkish club Fenerbahce, an ECA member, illustrate the limits of such actions. Centenaro said the new regulation would not apply to Fenerbahce, which was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal.
Fenerbahce president Aziz Yildirim was convicted and sentenced to six years and three months in prison on match-fixing charges. But the Turkish Football Federation cleared all 16 Turkish teams of involvement in the scandal on grounds that there was no evidence that alleged attempts to fix games altered the course of 22 matches tainted by the allegations.
Centenaro also said the ECA would be issuing a report by next month on ways to combat match-fixing, which will have concrete proposals such as requiring all players to sign a document acknowledging the rules.
AC Milan director Umberto Gandini, also the first vice-chairman of the ECA, played down the Europol report, noting that the 380 matches were among 200,000 played during that time in Europe.
He acknowledged match fixing was “a huge problem” but argued the sport was not in danger. “I don’t want to diminish the importance of such inquiries in place, (but) we have to be very, very careful,” Gandini said.
“Most important for us is to protect the game and the integrity of the game. For our part, as club managers and executives, we are doing our best to try to avoid and keep this under control.
“But obviously it’s a big fight. It’s a fight against criminal organisations. It’s not something that football clubs can do by themselves.
“We need state authorities to step in and help us find the right decisions,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Asian Football Confederation on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to fight match-fixing following allegations that a Singapore-based crime syndicate has been involved in fixing matches around the world.