Uefa anti-corruption chief to step down

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By Roger Blitz in London

The fight against match-fixing in European football, rocked by arrests  at the Italian national team’s training ground last week, has suffered a  fresh blow with the resignation of its anti-corruption chief after only a year  in the job.

Pierre Cornu, chief legal counsel for integrity and regulatory affairs, will  leave his post after the Euro 2012 tournament, which begins on Friday, Uefa,  European football’s governing body, has confirmed.

His departure follows the resignation  earlier this year of the head of security for Fifa, the sport’s world  governing body.

Gianni Infantino, Uefa’s general secretary, denied Mr Cornu’s departure was  linked to his role in Uefa’s decision in September to ban FC Sion from European  competition for fielding ineligible players, a ruling challenged in the courts  by the Swiss team.

“It is for family reasons,” Mr Infantino said.

But Declan Hill, a writer on sports corruption who has advised Uefa and the European Commission on  match-fixing, described Mr Cornu’s impending departure as “a bad joke that  exposes the hollowness of the words of the sports world”.

Mr Cornu set up a network of anti-corruption officers across Europe’s  national football associations to monitor the increasing instances of  match-fixing on the continent.

Uefa does not publish a tally of match-fixing cases, but Mr Hill said there  were 24 police investigations in Europe. A survey of more than 3,000 east  European players by FifPro, the world player’s union, found 12 per cent had been  approached to fix matches.

Uefa also has a betting fraud detection system to monitor any irregular  betting patterns across its 1,800 matches and 28,000 domestic fixtures in  Europe. It spends €5m a year to counter match-fixing.

But Mr Infantino called on police forces across Europe to help Uefa tackle  the scourge. “We are not James Bond or the FBI. We depend on the help of the  police authorities,” he said.

He also called on all European governments to recognise that match-fixing was  a crime, a demand echoed by a study for the European Commission. But he added  that a global sports anti-corruption agency similar to the World Anti-Doping  Agency, which combats drug cheating in sport, was not the answer.

“You can do a test for doping, but you can’t test if a match is fixed or  not,” Mr Infantino said.

Uefa may now use Mr Cornu’s departure to review its anti-corruption strategy,  according to a person close to the organisation’s leadership.

It is reliant not just on police authorities but on national football  associations taking tough action – some of whom have proved reluctant to do so,  despite pressure from Michel Platini, Uefa president. Players found guilty of  match-fixing should never play football again, Mr Platini said at a press  conference in Warsaw on Wednesday.

Although the latest match-fixing arrests involving Serie A clubs have further  sullied Italy’s footballing reputation, one former sports minister attributed  the latest scandal to the reluctance of the country’s football authorities to  impose strong enough sanctions. The scale of the problem was highlighted by  Mario Monti, prime minister, who suggested the whole of Italian football should  be suspended for up to three years.

Turkey’s football federation has courted controversy by taking no action of  its own against clubs allegedly involved in a match-fixing scandal that that has  named 90 people as suspects. An Istanbul prosecutor last week called for a  sentence of up to 39 years against Aziz Yildirim, chairman of Fenerbahce, Turkey’s largest club.

The federation’s inaction against Mr Yildirim and clubs, and its relatively  minor bans imposed on a clutch of players and club officials, appears to follow  the advice of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s powerful prime minister, who said  individuals rather than clubs should be punished over alleged match-fixing.

Mr Hill said: “Match-fixing is the most serious threat to the credibility of  sports. Now we have the third ‘chief of integrity’ purportedly fighting against  this threat to leave either FIFA or UEFA in the last year. The sports officials  say all the right things, but seem more interested in their next high-sounding  title or pay-packet then actually fighting corruption.”

Additional reporting by Daniel Dombey in Istanbul and Guy Dinmore in  Rome

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