Educating young key to combatting corruption in sport: Ex-EU Justice Commissioner

Paris (AFP) –


Educating the young should be the priority in the fight against corruption in sport, says former European Union Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini, who warned that "sport is more than ever vulnerable to crime".

"I very much prefer the school of sport rather the school of crime but unfortunately in our cities in some rundown suburbs there are schools of crime," said Frattini, the chairman of Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA).

"Sport mobilises a huge amount of money around the world and is very attractive to criminals," the 64-year-old told SIGA's Sports Integrity Week conference.

"As a judge I know the mafia's attempts to infiltrate and intimidate clubs."

The former Italian Foreign Minister believes the young needed to be taught the right values and not allowed to fall prey to bad influencers.

"We should not forget the young, they are the first victim" he said, speaking on the panel 'Sport's Big Fight: Anti-Corruption in Sport'.

"The mission should be one of education and instilling the key values of loyalty, honesty and transparency.

"It is not just about affecting our society today but evem more of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

"We cannot divide school from sport, sport should be part of the early education of the younger generation."

Frattini says it is best to keep a constant watch over the young.

"Let us not leave the young free to I would say be playing dangerous video games or in contact with dangerous people rather than learning how to compete honestly," he said.

He said organised crime had a negative effect not only on sports competitions but also in a wider context.

"It has a huge impact on communities where organised crime as it happens in Italy find very lucrative opportunities in altering sport competitions and getting easily dirty money," he said.

"Unfortunately they are trying to broaden their perspective and network and these are concepts around which the fight and prevention of corruption has to be focussed."

- 'Surrounded in secrecy' -

For Juan Antonio Salazar, the European Commission's Legal and Policy Officer for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Terrorist Financing, organised crime is a "major threat to citizens, business, institutions and economies of our countries".

"In 2019 criminal revenues in main criminal markets in Europe amounted to at least, and this is a conservative estimate, 1 percent of the European Union's Gross Domestic Product that is 140 billion euros," he said.

Salazar said transparency in financial investments is key vis-a-vis corruption in sport.

"We need to know who is behind financial operations that affect professional sports as a starting point," he said.

Salazar identified three major threats of activity.

"Investments by private funds in professional sports because it is not always that clear," he said.

"We can trace investors of money flows that appear in any given sector.

"However, in the professional sports sector in some cases the entity of individuals which appear managing funds are visible but the identities of the investors is still opaque and surrounded in secrecy."

Salazar said foreign ownership of clubs also presented a threat.

"In the EU we already have minimum common legislation regarding this," he said.

"When investments originate from other third countries the transparency over level of control and investments shareholding we could also have problems here."

Salazar is especially exercised by those who take stakes in several clubs.

"From my point of view multi-club owners is a threat," he said.

"In those cases where we have individual parties who have stakes in more than than one professional club in the case of football the situation can create opportunities and risks of corruption and money laundering for organised crime activities.

"Again I come back to my initial point we need transparency as much as possible and it is never going to be enough."