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UEFA hoping for a good news Euro

European football is looking for a successful Euro 2012in Poland and Ukraine after damaging match-fixing revelations in Italy, debt-ridden Spanish clubs and the spectre of racism in grounds across the continent.

Monday 11 June 2012, 06:06PM


Such is the atmosphere in Italy that even a heavy 3-0 defeat to Russia in a warm-up was welcomed as a chance to talk about events on the pitch, rather than off them, as a corruption investigation focused on illegal betting in the domestic game.

"We've suffered a big defeat, it's true, but there's a lot to say. That way we'll definitely talk about football," said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli after the Russia match in Zurich last week.

Prandelli was rudely awoken at the team's pre-Euro 2012 training camp near Florence last month, when police raided the venue at dawn and searched the room of Domenico Criscito as part of the probe into "calcioscommesse" or football betting.

The high-profile inquiry also led to the arrest of a number of footballers, including Lazio captain Stefano Mauri, while police also searched the home of Antonio Conte, the coach of Serie A champions Juventus.

The Italian football federation later forced Criscito, who was in line to be picked for the final 23-man squad, to withdraw, assessing his alleged involvement in the scandal would have been an unwanted distraction at the tournament.

Officials at European football's governing body UEFA are hoping that events on the pitch will match up to the last tournament in Austria and Switzerland, when Spain shook off their tag as perennial under-achievers to take the title.

UEFA president Michel Platini wrote in the latest edition of UEFA.direct magazine that Poland and Ukraine had overcome difficulties with infrastructure, ticketing and accommodation and were ready to host the continent's biggest football tournament.

"Right now, it is all about looking forward to watching Europe's best national teams in action, being bowled over by the feats of the players and sharing the excitement of the supporters -- in other words, getting swept up in a great month-long international celebration of football," he said.

But the former France captain, currently in his second term as UEFA president, must know that are always pressing issues to confront and has previously warned that they even threaten the future of the game.

They include "violence, match-fixing, illegal betting, doping, pressure and threats on players, breach of contracts, trafficking of young players, money laundering", he told UEFA's annual congress in Istanbul.

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"These problems exist and what's worse is they seem to be taking root and becoming commonplace. It's up to us, with the help of the authorities, to fight them," he told delegates.

Once the tournament draws to a close in Kiev on July 1, Platini will still have burning issues to address, notably in Spain, where the overall debt of clubs has risen to some 752 million euros ($935 million, 608 million pounds).

According to the Spanish media, top clubs in La Liga were in the red to the tune of nearly 490 million euros, those in the second division 184 million euros with those in the lower leagues 78 million euros in debt.

Racism -- both on and off the pitch -- is also a concern.

The BBC claimed in a recent documentary that far-right gangs had found fertile recruiting grounds within Polish and Ukrainian football, prompting former England captain Sol Campbell to warn ethnic minority fans not to travel.

The programme sparked an angry response, notably from Ukraine, who accused the broadcaster of misrepresenting the country.

Not that England has been immune from racism claims this past season.

Liverpool's Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez served an eight-match ban for racially abusing France defender Patrice Evra in the Premier League match with Manchester United last October.

More controversially John Terry was stripped of the England captaincy after it was announced he would stand trial in July accused of racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand during a match last season.

The Football Association felt that they could not have Terry - who is in the England squad - captaining England at the Euro with such an accusation hanging over him, a decision that prompted Fabio Capello to resign as England coach.

 

 

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