- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BRUSSELS (AP) - UEFA President Michel Platini called on all European countries to make sports fraud a criminal offense, saying Wednesday that soccer authorities can’t stop the spread of match-fixing on their own.

Platini told the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, that the sports movement is overwhelmed when faced with criminal gangs fixing matches for multimillion profit.

He called the spread of match-fixing “alarming” because it has proved impossible to contain it with sporting sanctions alone. Platini said “these initiatives do not suffice” when faced with criminal organizations and wants a global crime-busting approach to counter it.

“We need politicians to join our efforts to combat this scourge,” he told Europe’s foremost human rights institution.

Platini is counting on a groundswell of political outrage against match-fixing to push governments into action.

“European football is afraid, and I think I can even say that European sport as a whole is afraid,” he told the Council.

Over the summer, a Singapore man was sentenced to two years in prison for bribing players in the Finnish league in what FIFA saw as a breakthrough in the fight against match-fixing and illegal betting. Yet, it also highlighted the global and widespread the reach of the betting syndicates, with FIFA linking the same man to match-fixing in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Such scandals have spread to Turkey, Italy, Israel and Greece, all members of Platini’s UEFA.

“The growth of betting-related match fixing is alarming,” he said.

He lauded countries like Britain, Italy, Spain and a few others for sports fraud criminal legislation but insisted it needed to be used throughout Europe.

“The criminalization of sports fraud is far from universal. And this deficiency is, in part, why match-fixing is still going on,” he said.

Every season UEFA monitors some 1,800 European matches and 29,000 national league games for scams and analyzes betting trends on a daily basis to seek out suspect transactions.

This month, the Turkish soccer federation withdrew Fenerbahce from the lucrative Champions League while it is under suspicion in a criminal match-fixing probe.