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Last Friday, Kevin Sammut was suspended for ten years by UEFA for his involvement in match-fixing. FIFPro is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings and the disproportionate sanction.

 

The suspension of Sammut follows accusations made by Mario Cvrtak, a former member of a gambling syndicate who was sentenced in 2011 by the court of Bochum (Germany) for manipulating matches. One of the duels which according to Cvrtak were manipulated, was the Euro 2008 qualification match between Norway and Malta on November 22, 2007.

 

According to Cvrtak, the Maltese midfielder Kevin Sammut was the hub in the manipulation of this match, which was won by Norway with 4-0. The 31-year-old Sammut denies any involvement and maintains that he is innocent.

 

On Friday, 17 August, the disciplinary committee of the UEFA suspended Sammut for 10 years.

 

FIFPro is troubled about the legal proceedings. The worldwide trade union for professional footballs wonders whether UEFA is sufficiently equipped for such a trial. In its legal procedure, UEFA has fewer possibilities than the normal authorities, certainly for summoning/hearing witnesses and for reviewing the evidence. This means the legal procedure can be less than meticulous.

 

FIFPro places a large question mark over the proportionality of the sanction for Kevin Sammut. A ten-year suspension is an extremely severe sentence. The average duration of a professional footballer’s career is ten years. For this 31-year-old player, this suspension would normally mean the end of his career as professional player.

 

In addition, FIFPro would again point out that a footballer does not often take the initiative for match-fixing. Indeed, it has frequently been clear that the player was the victim, because he has been subjected to physical or mental pressure by a third (criminal) party.

 

In this case, Kevin Sammut was accused by a third party outside football as the hub in a match-fixing: Mario Cvrtak. To what extent can this accuser-with-a-criminal-background be trusted? Furthermore, the question is justified as to whether the sentence imposed on Kevin Summit is in proportion to that imposed on the person who is said to have approached him to manipulate the match.

 

For FIFPro, it seems improbable that Kevin Sammut, if guilty, was the only person involved in this affair. It frequently emerges that more people, both within football and outside it, are involved in match-fixing.

 

Finally, FIFPro would point out that a case such as this is an enormous threat to the welfare of a player. The footballer must foot the costs of his defence himself, with the consequence that a trial can bring a player to the edge of ruin, regardless of whether a player is found guilty or acquitted. That is also cause for concern.

 

For complete clarity: FIFPro is against any form of manipulation in professional football. FIFPro is involved in various initiatives aimed at bringing an end to match-fixing. But FIFPro argues for a fair legal procedure with proportionate sanctions for everybody concerned, in particular the professional footballer.