PtG Article 19.01.2007

UEFA wants to cooperate with the police to stop money laundering

Multinational cooperation between police and football authorities will be a must if European football wants to counter criminal money laundering activities through football. So says Henri Roemer, a special advisor to UEFA’s Executive Committee and an expert on what makes football vulnerable to organised crime.

In a recent presentation to Transparency International, Roemer stressed that international money laundering, corruption, and trafficking of young players are now serious threats to the integrity of professional sport in Europe, in particular football

Criminal organizations are interested in the football sector because football activity allows relatively easy opportunities for money laundering and corruption, explained Roemer.

Several factors combine to make football an interesting target fororganised crime.

  • Considerable sums are involved in football
  • Football may be used as a means for money laundering
  • The risk is minimal for such large profits
  • There is limited control (little regulation)
  • The presence of disreputable persons within international sport institutions
  • Financial circuits are multiple and global
  • It is difficult to prove a fraudulent set-up when there are a number of mediators
  • The immaterial character of the sums involved in football (How do you for instance measure the value of a player)
  • Football is a team sport: Corruption of a single actor (president, player) often leads to  control over the whole club
  • Football is linked to many channels providing an opportunity for criminal activities (marketing, sponsorship)
  • A statute of extraterritoriality is acknowledged in football (the zone is considered lawless, e.g. tolerance of racism at stadiums)
  • Laundering and corruption are considered as bloodless crime; therefore they are socially more acceptable
  • Football is an activity where volunteers still have difficulties protecting themselves
  • A certain sociological fragility of players (mainly due to their young age)
  • The opportunity for acquiring a “nice maecenas” status thanks to supporting a club no matter where the money comes from

”UEFA has a responsibility to do everything possible, within its legal capacity, to keep money laundering and criminal activities out of European football,” says Roemer.

However, the investigation and prosecution of criminal activities lie outside of UEFA’s legal competence. Therefore, it will be necessary for UEFA and its member associations to identify institutions with which they can collaborate, he concludes.

Read Henri Roemer’s full presentation.