European football's governing body UEFA and law enforcement agency Europol have joined forces to find new ways to combat corruption and match-fixing in the game, they announced on Tuesday (Apr 26).
A number of representatives across law enforcement, judicial authorities and national football associations from 49 countries took part in a joint conference in The Hague on Tuesday as they discussed plans to protect the integrity of the sport.
"Organised crime quickly understood that many football clubs suffered financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Burkhard Muehl, head of the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC).
"And when less money is available, players, coaches, referees and even club officials are more vulnerable to the machinations of match fixers."
A study by UEFA earlier this year showed that the COVID-19 pandemic cost European clubs €7 billion (US$7.91 billion) across two seasons, mainly due to empty stadiums and a fall in transfer revenue.
EFECC experts work with law enforcement agencies across the European Union and investigate links between high-profile games and suspects.
"Huge profits are made by making the unpredictable predictable. Cases of match-fixing and suspicious outcomes are piling up. Cooperation between law enforcement and sports organisations is crucial to identifying and investigating suspected cases in football," added Muehl.