The battle against match-fixing is being undermined by a lack of sufficient evidence which often leads to the abandonment of investigations, a European sports forum was told on Thursday.
In a declaration adopted in Cyprus, EU sports ministers and representatives of European sport called for “effective and sustained action” to nip match-fixing in the bud.
But proving a link between fraud and the deliberate under-performance of players is not always easy despite mechanisms brought it to try to combat the problem.
“When an early warning system shows high probability that a match was fixed, it may often not be accepted as material evidence for a prosecution,” a report by EU-commissioned consultants KEA said.
The process was also extremely resource intensive, they added.
Although match-fixing is an offence in all 27 EU member states, legal loopholes still exist.
“This is the biggest threat to the integrity of sports today,” said Androulla Vassiliou, the European Union commissioner responsible for sport. “If we do not protect it the soul of sport will be destroyed.”
EU officials say it is difficult to quantify the extent of the problem because of the illicit nature of the activity but clarified it did not just concern soccer, the world's most popular sport, but many sporting events.
The declaration adopted in Nicosia said match-fixing necessitated action in education and prevention, efficient monitoring mechanisms, “dissuasive, effective and proportionate” sanctions, cooperation among interested parties and international cooperation.
“It is a start, a good basis we can build upon to face this huge threat,” said Pampos Stylianou, chairman of the Cyprus Sports Association.