22nd August 2018
FIFPro has taken note of UEFA’s statement welcoming the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to uphold a two-year ban for Maltese football player Samir Arab for not reporting a match-fixing approach. FIFPro did not plan to comment on the case until the reasoning of the CAS decision has been communicated. However, FIFPro feels obliged to raise some important points following UEFA’s statement earlier this week.
The ban follows a UEFA investigation into two European Championship Under-21 qualifying matches in March 2016, which eventually were not manipulated because several Maltese players who were approached – including Samir Arab – refused to take part in match-fixing.
FIFPro believes that a two-year ban in Samir Arab’s case is completely disproportionate and unfair. Indeed, FIFPro does not understand UEFA’s decision to start disciplinary proceedings against the player in the first place.
Although Samir Arab admits he did not immediately report the match-fixing approach to UEFA or the Malta Football Association, only three weeks after the incidents occurred he cooperated fully with a police investigation in Malta and testified in court against the instigator of the match-fixing plot, an individual with a criminal record who had already been banned from football for previous match-fixing attempts.
The Maltese court which sentenced the plot instigator to prison described Samir Arab as a “very important witness”. Both the police investigation and Samir Arab’s testimony in court preceded UEFA’s disciplinary charges by about one year. FIFPro finds it extraordinary that a fully cooperative witness in criminal procedures can more than one year later be punished by UEFA with a two-year ban from all football-related activities, preventing him from even training with his club.
Furthermore, FIFPro has constantly raised concerns about the proper education of young players and has advocated for witness-protection for players who report match-fixing approaches – two prerequisites fundamental in the fight against match-fixing. FIFPro believes that these prerequisites were missing at the time of the events giving rise to these sanctions.
While FIFPro supports vigorous measures by football authorities to stamp out match-fixing, we are calling for a more measured and reasonable approach so players like Samir Arab are not unfairly and disproportionately punished as part of these efforts, especially not when they are providing substantial assistance in convicting the real criminals.