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Football chiefs pledge betting controls amid Austrian match-fixing claims

3rd December 2013 8:38 am GMT

The heads of Austrian football’s governing bodies have called for restrictions on betting in the country following allegations of match-fixing, with twenty current and former footballers currently suspected of committing the offence in up to seventeen first and second division matches.

An investigation by Austrian authories has found that a total of thirty players may have been involved in manipulating match events and results over the past seven years, although currently only twenty players are confirmed suspects.

These include nine in the country’s top league, the Bundesliga, with three offences thought to have taken place this season, and eight games in the second tier Erste Liga.

Bets are alleged to have been placed on in-game events such as penalty and corner kicks, as well as match results, which prompted Dr Leo Windtner, chairman of the Austrian Football Federation (ÖFB), and Bundesliga president Hans Rinner to both call for restrictions on betting on single events during matches.

“These are the bets that are concerned and which harm us, but which should not reduce the issue as a whole,” Rinner explained, pledging to work with sportsbook operators and other partners to explore potential solutions to the issue.

Speaking at a press conference in Vienna last week, Windtner added that the situation needed to “comprehensively and thoroughly investigated,” admitting that such allegations “harm Austrian football.”

“We intend to take any measure needed to solve this issue“, he continued. “By taking concrete steps in close coordination with the authorities, we will act for complete clarity. Together, we will do anything to free ourselves from this scourge.“

All Bundesliga clubs have been ordered to issue a written statement on each suspect in the case, notifying the authorities on any signs or admissions of match-fixing.

European Lottery Association (ELA) president Friedrich Stickler, a former ÖFB president, also commented on the case, saying: “On a daily basis, we run into new cases of match-fixing in one or more European countries. That betting syndicates also had their eyes on Austria, was clear."

He said it was “shocking” that up to 30 Austrian players may be involved in match-fixing, which he called “the biggest threat to sports.”

“We know the international networks and are aware that no country can be sure to escape the claws of the betting organizations.”

In a bid to help Austrian sporting federations avoid a similar situation in future, the ELA, alongside France’s Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) and other international experts, met with the federations to discuss an action plan for Austria, based on the ELA’s Fair Play Code.

The proposed framework would see the legal status of match-fixing clarified with new punishments written into Austrian law, and the country’s sports governing bodies to also define clear regulations, including banning all professional sportspeople from betting.

It would also see new restrictions on types of betting, such as on events during matches, as mentioned by Rinner, and for what sports bookmakers can offer odds. The Austrian state would also be required to take more effective measures to combat unlicensed betting operators.

Monitoring controls would also be introduced under Stickler’s proposal, with greater education for players, and international cooperation to aid the fight against international match-fixing syndicates.

“It is time to promote joint solutions,“ Stickler explained. “With the Play Fair Code, a first step has been taken. Our measures must however be based on more than educating sportsmen. We need an organisation for integrity in sports.”

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