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All bets off Switzerland signs treaty to prevent match-fixing

French handball player Luca Karabatic was among seven handball players handed six-match bans in 2013 for involvement in an illegal betting scandal.

(Keystone)

Fifteen European countries including Switzerland signed the Council of Europe’s new Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions on Thursday. The agreement aims to prevent, detect and punish rigging in sport.

The convention, which was drafted in March 2012, commits signatories to create effective penalties, facilitate cross-border judicial cooperation and supply guidelines for sports betting agencies.

It requires countries to prevent conflicts of interest between betting agencies, athletes and competition organisers. It also has provisions to restrict access to betting agencies or block their financial transactions if required.

An alert system for suspicious bets will also be established and international cooperation will be strengthened.

Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, said the treaty is “a major step forward for integrity, ethics and transparency in sport”.

The first fifteen signatories are: Germany, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway, the Netherlands, Russia, Serbia and Switzerland. Signatory countries will now need to get their parliaments to ratify the convention.

It will only come into force when at least five countries have ratified it.

A money-maker’s game

The increased commercialisation of sport and the globalisation of the sports events market have massively increased competitions’ financial implications, according to the council of Europe.

The body says that mere qualification for the UEFA Champions League football tournament, may represent an additional income of €15 million (CHF18.1 million) for a club. Promotion to a professional league may add between €4-5 million for a French football club.

UEFA welcomed the treaty as it published a code of conduct agreed with European football leagues, clubs and players' unions.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said "it is important that the states acknowledge that (match-fixing) is a criminal offense."

This is only the third European sporting convention since the 1985 Convention on Spectator Violence and the 1989 Anti-Doping Convention.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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